Thursday, October 11, 2007

Michigan primary will go on as planned, say party officials

cross-posted at Michigan Messenger

Officials of the Michigan Republican Party and the Michigan Democratic Party say the January 15 primary will proceed as planned, even though several Democratic candidates have removed their names from the ballot. The renegade date leaves each party vulnerable to sanctions for breaking national party rules.

"Our guys are all on the ballot, they're staying on the ballot and we're having a primary on the 15th," said Bill Nowling, Michigan GOP spokesperson.

According to Washington Post coverage from October 9, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said that "the state still will hold its joint Democratic-Republican presidential primary on Jan. 15 because it's state law." There is still the possibility that Democrats will also hold a separate presidential caucus on Feb. 9 to officially pick a nominee from the complete list of candidates. Mr. Brewer could not be reached for further comment.

"The important point here is that we allow citizens to participate in the democratic process and that means voting. The bill was a great thing to do. Why would we want to have closed door politics? This was in my mind the best and most efficient thing to do for all the citizens of the state," said Senator Michelle McManus (R-35th), lead sponsor of the bill that moved Michigan's presidential primary to January 15.

The January 15 primary breaks Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee rules and some have speculated about changing it. However, McManus says the date cannot be changed without further legislation. Allowing for another scenario, Nowling says that "the way the law is written both parties have to say that they're not going to participate in the primary for there not to be one. That was put in so one party couldn't stick it to the other at the last minute."

"Internally the Republican Party passed a rule saying that if the Democrats don't want to participate, we're not going to either," McManus said. "But I don't think that's going to happen," she added.

There is more at play, though, than giving citizens a chance to participate in an early, influential primary, instead of a caucus. Nowling, sees an advantage for the GOP resulting from the Democrats' withdrawal from the primary. "We're not going to interrupt our opponents while they're busy shooting themselves in the foot," he said.

"I have a hard time understanding this, given how important Michigan is to Democratic electoral maps," said Nowling. He says that he hasn't seen a Democratic presidential electoral scenario where a Democrat wins without Michigan. "Thumbing your nose at the state early on looks counter intuitive to me," he added.

At the same time, RNC sanctions could result in the Michigan GOP losing up to half its delegates to the nominating convention.

At the local level, some Democrats are frustrated. In Kalamazoo, Democratic 6th District Chair, Alan Harbaugh said, "I am disappointed in the candidates that pulled out of the primary. While I'm sure they didn't mean it as a personal attack upon the voters of Michigan, I think all the voters - Democrat, Republican and Independent - probably took it that way."

Harbaugh suggests changing Iowa's and New Hampshire's lock on opening the presidential primary season and is critical of DNC chair, Howard Dean. "I'm not real please with how Dean has handled this situation. New Hampshire and Iowa should be told this isn't the way it's going to be anymore and that every state in the country is important and we're going to rotate this thing."