Florida commission sets Jan. 31 for presidential primary, following some last-minute wranglingby John Kennedy | September 30th, 2011
Amid some last-minute wrangling, a special commission Friday agreed to set Jan. 31 as the date for the state’s presidential primary — risking penalties from the national parties but giving what supporters said is Florida’s rightful, powerful place in selecting the nominees.
With President Obama assured of being renominated, the early date controversy largely focused on Republicans. The Jan. 31 date was set on a 7-2 vote by the commission, with the only opposition coming from a pair of Democrats on the panel.
“I don’t want to see the voices in Florida diminished and be penalized because we didn’t follow the rules,” said Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, who joined with Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, in voting against the early date.
Stafford and Siplin had pushed for a March 6 primary date. Former Sen. Al Lawson, another Democrat on the panel, had proposed a Jan. 3 primary — before siding with the majority on the Jan. 31 date.
Both national parties last year approved a rule barring states from holding primaries before March 6, with the exception of the traditional early-voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Those states are now expected to advance their primary and caucus votes ahead of Florida — resulting in a spate of January voting dates that the Republican National Committee had sought to avoid.
Florida’s move was sparked, at least in part, by Arizona, Michigan and Missouri, which recently also leapfrogged the early states to schedule delegate-selection contests in February. House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, said such shifting effectively forced Florida’s hand.
“I believe the voters in Florida need to be heard as loud and as impactful as possible,” he said. “I respect the Republican National Committee, I respect the institution of the party, but at the end of the day, I have a constitutional duty to the citizens of this state, who are paying for this election.”
Florida and other states jumping forward face the loss of half their delegates to the Republican Party’s nominating convention next summer in Tampa. Some critics say that could blunt Florida’s allure.
The RNC has scheduled a 3 p.m. conference call to respond to the moves by Florida and other states.
Tags: presidential primary