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Brewer wants early 2012 presidential primary ‘if at all possible’

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

With a deadline looming, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she’d like her state to have an earlier 2012 presidential primary “if at all possible” but that she remains open to a negotiated alternative such as having Republican candidates debate in the state.

Brewer spoke briefly with reporters Tuesday evening, two days before a Saturday deadline for her to act if she decides to move up the Feb. 28 primary to Jan. 31 as she has said she may do.

Republican National Committee rules prohibit Arizona and other states from moving up their primaries ahead of caucuses and primaries now scheduled in February by Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

An earlier primary date for Arizona would likely trigger a stampede by early caucus and primary states to move up their contests into January to stay up front.

Brewer said an earlier primary would better highlight Arizona and issues of concern to the state’s residents. But she added that a debate held in the state could also highlight candidates’ positions on those concerns.

“I would like an early primary if at all possible. I think that kind of highlights Arizona a lot more,” she said. “But depending on what we can negotiate as far as what’s good for Arizona and what’s good for the country as a whole … I’m open.”

A former Republican Party state chairman said earlier Thursday that the debate alternative remained on the table.

“That’s pretty much it,” former chairman Randy Pullen said when asked whether topics other than hosting a debate in Arizona were being discussed as alternatives to moving up the primary date.

Brewer disclosed in July that she’s considering moving up the primary from Feb. 28 to Jan. 31 to get the state and its concerns more attention. Her office said Monday that having GOP candidates debate in Arizona might achieve the same purpose.

Brewer faces a Saturday deadline under state law to act if she decides to advance the primary to Jan. 31. Because state law requires a governor to act 150 days before a new date, the deadline rolls back day by day if Brewer considers new dates in February earlier than Feb. 28.

Pullen said getting a party-sanctioned debate is not certain.

“I think we’re pretty close to getting a debate. I can’t say it’s certain,” Pullen said.

A Republican National Committee spokesman who has said party officials were trying to keep Arizona from moving up its primary date did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Arizona’s current Feb. 28 primary date already falls too early under national party rules, and the state could lose half its delegates to the Republican national convention.

“Obviously if I don’t call a special session (to move the date back into March), we’re going to lose them regardless, half of them. So you know that’s kind of out of the game,” Brewer said.

Brewer said she’s not inclined to call legislators into special session to move back the primary date.

“I don’t think they want to come back into session. I think a lot of them want to see the primary early anyway,” she said.

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