Gov. Jan Brewer faces a Saturday deadline to move Arizona’s presidential primary up to Jan. 31, but she is considering multiple dates for the vote amid negotiations with party officials.
Brewer has indicated she may change Arizona’s Feb. 28 primary date to give it the first-in-the-nation White House nominating contest, which could force Iowa and New Hampshire to move up their contests in response.
Brewer said in July she wanted a Jan. 31 primary to put a spotlight on Arizona voters’ concerns on issues such as border security, illegal immigration and the federal health care overhaul. She has since said holding a presidential debate in Arizona also could accomplish that.
“It’s important that Arizona get on the forefront with the issues that are affecting not only Arizona but also on a national level,” Brewer told reporters Thursday evening.
“I would like an early primary if at all possible,” she said. “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 … I’m open.”
State law requires any change be made at least 150 days in advance. That sets Saturday’s deadline for a Jan. 31 primary.
However, “there are multiple dates under consideration,” said Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson, who wouldn’t elaborate.
Deadlines to schedule a different date for Arizona’s primary would roll through September on a daily basis by each date falling 150 days ahead of a day in February.
Republican National Party rules bar Arizona and other states from moving their primaries and contests ahead of the February contests scheduled by Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The Feb. 28 date is already in violation of RNC rules, which could cause Arizona to lose half its delegates to the party’s 2012 national convention.
“That’s a fact of life,” said Randy Pullen, former RNC chair, adding that he opposed the national rule on scheduling primaries. “I knew it was contrary to Arizona’s law and would cause problems for Arizona.”
Benson and Ryan Mahoney, a Republican National Committee spokesman, said Friday that negotiations continued between Arizona and RNC officials. They declined to provide specifics.
“We’re still working to make sure that all (states) are in compliance with RNC rules,” Mahoney said.
Resetting Arizona’s primary date likely would trigger a scramble by states with early caucus and primary contests in February to move up into January.
If the early states’ current February dates are vacated, other states may themselves move up their contests to fill the newly available political real estate in February, said Josh Putnam, a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College in North Carolina who monitors and blogs on scheduling of presidential nominating contests.
With other states having more flexibility than Brewer because of the 150-day requirement, “she’s been forced to make a decision without having a full slate of information,” Putnam said.