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Gallardo to Brewer: Let’s eliminate presidential primaries

Sen. Steve Gallardo and Gov. Jan Brewer (File photos)

A Democratic lawmaker is pushing for the elimination of the presidential primary starting next year, a move that would cancel the Republican contest that is scheduled for February.

The chances that the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer will favorably consider the idea are miniscule at best.

But the appeal by Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, to scrap presidential primaries is actually broader than it appears: He wants to eliminate them for both parties.

Some Republicans, however, immediately regarded the idea as partisan gamesmanship since President Barack Obama is seeking reelection next year and Democrats don’t need a primary to settle who their nominee will be.

“If they had a contested primary for Democrats, we wouldn’t be talking about it,” said Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City.

Gallardo also said he’s open to wait until after next year’s Republican presidential primary to push the legislation, if that’s what it takes to get the measure passed.

“If my colleagues are fearful of me trying to be partisan, then my solution is OK, fine, let us do it after the 2012 presidential primary election and let’s focus on 2016,” Gallardo said Monday, adding he wants policymakers to work on replacing the primary model during next year’s session.

Whether Obama wins or loses his re-election bid next year, Democrats will almost certainly have a contested primary in 2016, due to either term limits or a Republican president being in office.

Gallardo said he would introduce a bill next year to eliminate the presidential primaries — or co-sign a measure if a Republican colleague wanted to take up the issue.

Gallardo said the $3.4 million that has been set aside for next year’s presidential preference election could be better used somewhere else.

“You’re not electing anyone. Let’s call it what it is. It’s a survey. It’s a poll within the party of who they think should be the nominee at the convention,” Gallardo said, adding that the money for next year’s presidential primary can be used for something else, such as putting it into classrooms.

Gallardo offered another argument against spending state money on the presidential primary: To him, there’s no benefit to Arizona since it’s the states with early primaries or caucuses that become the center of attention.

“There’s no spotlight on Arizona. There’s no need media attention. The candidates aren’t coming to Arizona to campaign. They may swing by and have a discussion or a phone call with Joe Arpaio or the governor… but they don’t have a campaign headquarters. They’re not doing media buys,” he said.

But presidential candidates have actually visited Arizona a lot more frequently in the last few months.

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has been in Arizona twice during the campaign. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Herb Cain have also visited Arizona.

Still, candidates haven’t established the kind of political machineries that they set up in states that choose their nominees early, like Iowa.

Gould said having a primary is still better than holding a caucus in attracting public participation.

Only insiders really participate in party caucuses, he said.

Getting the people in one room together to choose a nominee would also be strange for most voters, he added.

“The problem is Arizona chooses its candidates by a primary process rather than a caucus process, so if you get rid of that election, you disenfranchise the voter,” he said.

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