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Brewer nears deadline on moving Arizona primary date

Gov. Jan Brewer (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Jan Brewer is exploring ways to put a spotlight on Arizona concerns as she considers alternatives that include moving up Arizona’s presidential primary, an idea that would like reshuffle the calendar for picking a Republican presidential nominee.

Brewer is still leaning toward moving up the state’s primary to Jan. 31 to give Arizonans a louder voice nationally but is considering her options, spokesman Matthew Benson said Monday.

Besides changing the primary date from Feb. 28, the alternatives include staging a debate for presidential candidates in Arizona, Benson said.

“A debate would be one way to really shine the light on Arizona issues, such as illegal immigration and border issues,” Benson said. He declined to provide details on the possibility of a debate or on other possible options.

Arizona law now places the primary on Feb. 28, but authorizes the governor to set a new date by issuing a proclamation at least 150 days before the new date. That means Brewer would have to issue a proclamation by Saturday to move the primary to Jan. 31, according to Brewer’s office and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Holding the Arizona primary on Jan. 31 would violate Republican party rules to punish states that try to leapfrog four early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. And if Arizona moves up its primary, at least some of the other states are expected to move up their February dates in order to still go first.

A date change could provide Arizona with some increased attention even if it doesn’t end up going first, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. “Generally I would agree that the earlier your state is in the process, the more focus it seems to get, within reason.”

Under party rules adopted last year, states that violate the timetable could lose half of their delegates to the party’s 2012 national convention, but there’s no indication that would deter Brewer.

Whether or not convention delegates actually get stripped from Arizona or any other state is hard to predict, but even the Feb. 28 date set in state law violates a party prohibition on going ahead of March 6, the date for the multistate Super Tuesday primaries.

Brewer “has a number of different possibilities at her disposal,” Benson said.

He declined to elaborate other than to acknowledge that Brewer hasn’t indicated an interest in holding the primary before Jan. 31.

“The governor has indicated her priority here is to give the biggest platform to Arizona voters and Southwestern issues,” he said. “You could potentially see a potential presidential preference election date other than Jan. 31 and accomplish the same thing.”

Benson said aides and party officials advising Brewer on the issue have been contacted by national figures attempting to head off a date change.

“The governor continues to lean toward Jan. 31 but she is quite cognizant of the concerns of the national party on this issue,” he said.

A Republican National Committee spokesman confirmed that party leaders have been in contact with Arizona leaders.

“It’s been an ongoing discussion with the state party … to get compliance,” RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. “I believe we’re still waiting to hear from the governor on what she might decide to do.”

Brewer disclosed her inclination to move up Arizona’s primary in late July.

“Arizona deserves to be a major player in determining the Republican nominee since Arizona has been on the forefront of immigration, health care and other national issues. It only makes that our state has its voice heard loud and clear,” she said in a July 22 Facebook post.

Iowa is now scheduled to hold its caucuses on Feb. 6, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada caucus on Feb. 18, the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28 and Super Tuesday on March 6.

If she changes the primary date, Brewer would be invoking an authority first given to Arizona governors in the 1990s.

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