Conservative Republicans need to lobby for a March 22 primary
By Mark D. Jones | First Vice Chairman | Craven County Republican Party
North Carolina could be a major player in the race to determine the 2016 Republican Presidential nominee. With 72 delegates (sixth highest in the country), the key word is “could.” A combination of obscure Republican National Committee rules and North Carolina legislative actions could spoil this opportunity.
The Republican National Committee makes the rules related to how Republican delegates are apportioned, and the North Carolina legislature has the authority to set the date of our primary. The Committee has developed a concept known as the “proportionality window,” which imposes two potential penalties on 46 of the 50 states for holding primaries before March 15.
Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have the distinction of being exempt from these penalties, and you will hear a lot of talk about early primaries in these states next year. The first of the penalties mentioned above means that any other state that chooses a primary date before March 1 will lose a significant percentage of its delegates. North Carolina currently plans for a February primary, which would reduce our delegate count from 72 to 12, making our state insignificant with regard to its impact on selecting the next GOP presidential nominee.
The North Carolina House of Representatives recently passed a bill (H.B. 457) that would move the primary date to March 8, 2016. This restores our delegate count to 72 but comes with another pitfall. Any state — other than the four exempt states already mentioned — that holds a Primary the first two weeks of the month will be forced to allocate those delegate on a proportional basis.
This means that if five, or even ten, candidates are on the ballot, each candidate will receive a percentage of our delegates commensurate with the percentage of the vote they receive. The Committee’s penalty will mean that a number of very conservative states — with high delegate counts like Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina — that intend to hold early primaries, will be forced to divide their delegates among multiple candidates. In fact, 10 of 15 southern states plan to hold their primaries in this window. Conservative stalwarts like Colorado and Utah also plan to hold primaries in this window. It is highly unlikely any candidate will emerge from these conservative states with enough delegates to establish a significant lead or gain momentum in the race to be the Republican nominee before March 15.
Then along comes the period after March 15. States are then allowed to grant their delegates on a winner-take-all basis. This is when primaries will be held in less conservative states like Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. These states can, and likely will, grant all of their large delegate counts to one candidate who gets a simple majority. As a result, these states will almost certainly determine who wins the 2016 nomination to be the Republican candidate.
So, what is the solution? The Committee could change the rules, but it is unlikely this will happen. I will let you make your own conclusions about why! The only thing we can control at this point in North Carolina is the date of our own primary. House Bill 457 made the crossover to the North Carolina Senate before the April 30, 2015 deadline.
Our Senate can now amend the Bill to hold the Primary on the fourth Tuesday in March (March 22, 2016) and make North Carolina a winner-take-all state. With the already mentioned sixth highest number of delegates in the country, North Carolina will become Ground Zero for candidates hoping to be our nominee. A winner-take-all primary will energize Republican activists and workers and bring all the leading candidates to our state. For those of us hoping for a conservative Republican nominee, we can only hope other conservative states see the pitfalls of the early primaries and change their dates as well.
There is still time to contact your state senator about this important issue. Educate them about the details and importance of this issue and ask that they support a March 22 Primary. It is important for Republicans to contact these leaders and all senators and make their voice heard about this critical issue. With a change to a March 22 primary, and hopefully a little help from other conservative states, North Carolina may well be a huge player in determining the nominee to represent the Republican Party in the 2016 Presidential race.