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UNF tapped as site for next month’s Republican debate

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Florida Republican Party said Tuesday that its pre-presidential primary debate will be held Jan. 26 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

A co-sponsor for the debate is the Hispanic Leadership Network. The debate will be broadcast on CNN.

“This is a great event for Jacksonville and for UNF,” said Lenny Curry, Florida’s Republican Party chairman, and a Jacksonville businessman. “This venue will highlight how important Jacksonville and the First Coast region are to Florida and the nation by hosting a debate that includes our next president.”

Florida has set Jan. 31 for its primary, drawing penalties from the Republican National Committee for placing its contest ahead of  a March 6 cutoff. The party had been trying to reserve the earlier dates for states which traditionally hold the nation’s first contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The nation’s first nominating contest will be the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

The UNF debate will mark the third debate originating from Florida, the nation’s biggest toss-up state in the presidential contest. Nationally televised debates featuring the Republican presidential field were held in September in Tampa and Orlando.

CNN and state Republicans to host Jan. 26 GOP presidential debate in Jax

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

CNN and the Florida Republican Party announced Saturday they will host a GOP presidential candidates’ debate Jan. 26 from Jacksonville — five days before the state’s primary.

It will mark the third debate originating from Florida, the nation’s biggest toss-up state in the presidential contest. Nationally televised debates featuring the Republican presidential field were held last month in Tampa and Orlando.

“CNN and RPOF are going to make this debate the best opportunity for our presidential candidates to continue their dialogue with Floridians,” said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. “With a date exactly halfway between the South Carolina and Florida primary dates, this debate will be the must-attend event for this great field of Republicans.”

Florida set Jan. 31 for its primary, drawing penalties from the Republican National Committee for placing its contest ahead of March 6. The party had been trying to reserve the earlier dates for states which traditionally held the nation’s first contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

But efforts to avoid a frontloaded primary season now look like a lost cause.

As expected, after Florida’s leapfrog last week, South Carolina set Jan. 21 for its primary. Nevada has since tapped Jan. 14, while Republican Party officials in Iowa are eyeing Jan. 3 or 5 for its caucuses. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner says he is still considering scheduling that state’s first-in-the-nation primary for December, because of the early moves by other states.

 

South Carolina fires first shot — of post-Florida primary moves

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 by John Kennedy

The dominos began falling Monday after Florida last week set a Jan. 31 presidential primary, with South Carolina announcing it had moved its contest to 10 days ahead of the Sunshine State’s.

“Today, South Carolina’s Republican primary restores order,” South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly said in announcing the date.

Still, there’s plenty in flux.

Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire — designated by the two national parties as early voting states — haven’t announced their dates yet, with all expected to jump ahead of Florida, which broke party rules by leapfrogging into January.

New Hampshire now is looking at Jan. 3 or 10 for its first-in-the-nation primary. State law in Iowa could push caucuses there  into 2011 if New Hampshire grabs Jan. 3, since the Hawkeye State must vote eight days before another state’s contest.

Florida commission sets Jan. 31 for presidential primary, following some last-minute wrangling

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by John Kennedy

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.

Dockery lobbying for primary commission to reject Jan. 31 date

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican frequently willing to buck her own party’s majority rule in Florida, is trying to derail Friday’s expected vote for a Jan. 31 presidential primary.

Dockery sent an email Thursday to GOP activists, urging them to contact members of the nine-member commission tasked with setting the date. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he expects the panel to flout a Republican National Committee rule and approve the Jan. 31 primary — risking penalties that include the loss of half the party’s delegates at next summer’s nominating convention in Tampa.

RNC penalties also could effectively reduce the Florida primary in value to the presidential candidates. Florida’s now winner-take-all primary would be changed to where the state’s remaining delegates would be distributed proportionately, based on voting results, potentially blunting the allure of big-state Florida.

“While we are all in agreement that Florida is an important state that should play a key role in the national election, attempting to circumvent existing rules or force the hand of the Republican National Convention likens Florida to a child throwing a tantrum because she isn’t getting her way,” Dockery said in her email.

Paul Senft, the Florida GOP’s national committeeman, has spoken out against the early primary date, along with the Florida Federation of Republican Women.

 The national party has ruled that only four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — can hold primaries or caucuses before March 6. Some states have moved up, however, despite the looming punishment, and Cannon said Florida should not feel confined by the party rule.

“Florida is the most economically, demographically, and geographically diverse state in the country,” Cannon said. “We’re also the largest electoral state up for grabs….We proved in ’08, the person that won Florida became the Republican Party’s nominee. It maximizes Floridians’, voters voices. It may cause some heartburn among some people who want to sit at a certain seat at the convention.”

GOP ready to rewrite elections law

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by John Kennedy

After three hours of debate late into Wednesday night, the House tentatively approved a massive elections bill pushed by ruling Republicans but fiercely opposed by Democrats.

The legislation (CS/HB 1355) would put tight restrictions on groups that register voters – making the League of Women Voters, unions, the NAACP and others submit lists of prospective new voters to elections supervisors within 48 hours, or face $1,000 fines.

“I’m not ready to talk about anyone particularly,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the sponsor of the measure, refuting demands from Democrats to show where organizations have caused problems for elections supervisors.

“I’m just trying to build a better system,” he added.

A final House vote is expected Thursday.

The registration requirements, deadlines and even heavier financial penalties against so-called third-party registration organizations were approved by the GOP-led legislature in 2006.

But the measures were thrown out by a court, because they were considered overly punitive. The  latest version modifies the penalties, and supporters think it will withstand any challenge.

In another controversial provision, the bill also would create new standards that critics warn could endanger ballots cast by voters away from their home counties – a move some see as designed to blunt the participation of Democratic-leaning college students in next year’s presidential contest.

Republican leaders beat back some 40 amendments pushed by Democrats aimed at allowing university facilities to be designated early voting sites, limiting the amount of money flowing to shadowy political committees, and even an attempt to move the presidential primary to the first week of March, away from the current, Jan. 31 date.

Democrats forced Republicans to cast recorded votes — not voice votes — on most of the amendments. The move is clearly designed by Democrats to cast Republicans as seeking to blunt voter-access to the ballot next year.

“I presented several common-sense amendments that would protect voting rights in our state,” Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, said after the floor action. “The Republican majority outright rejected these amendments, and in doing so, continue to open the gates for voter suppression.”

 

Inter-GOP schism over early FL primary heats up

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Dara Kam

GOP leaders in South Carolina and Iowa are pushing national Republican leaders to yank next year’s convention from the Sunshine State unless lawmakers change the presidential preference primary date.

South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd sent a letter to members of the Republican National Committee this morning saying Florida is “thumbing its nose” at the committee’s rules, Politico http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52303.html today.

“Simply put, if Florida does not respect the process by which our primary calendar was set, the RNC should not be bound to the process by which the convention site was selected,” Floyd wrote.

Iowa
GOP Chairman Matt Strawn sent out a statement backing up Floyd.

Florida’s 2012 primary is currently set for Jan. 31, a violation of both parties’ rules requiring the primary to be held no earlier than in March.

Florida GOP leaders aren’t backing down. They say they’re doing what they can to ensure that Florida plays an integral role in the selection of the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Get over it, Senate President Mike Haridopolos suggested in a statement. The Merritt Island Republican and U.S. Senate candidate wants the Sunshine State to be fifth in the primary lineup, after New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.

Read Haridopolos’ and House Speaker Dean Cannon’s reactions after the jump.
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Senate prez goal for Florida: Primary No. 5

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos wants the Sunshine State to get No. 5 billing in next year’s presidential primaries to help secure Florida’s role in selecting the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

That would make Florida the first big state to hold a GOP primary and avoid the loss of convention delegates by skipping in front of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, as Republicans have threatened should Florida keep its current January 31 primary date.

“We’re not looking to go first or second or even third or fourth,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said. “Our goal is usually to be Number 1; we want to be Number 5. I’m okay with Number 5. So the idea is, how do we make us Number 5. We do not want to lose delegates, obviously.”

Haridopolos, a U.S. Senate candidate whose name will be on the ballot in the GOP primary in the fall, believes a Florida win in the presidential primary will determine the next presidential nominee, pointing to U.S. Sen. John McCain’s Florida victory in 2008.

“It makes a lot of sense that if you can win in Florida, that you can find a lot of success nationally,” Haridopolos said. “Because, candidly, I’d like to have a new president. I’m not going to support Barack Obama. I know I’m breaking news here, but I’m not going to support him for re-election.”

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