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COULD LOUISIANA HAVE THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY?

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2007

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

COULD LOUISIANA HAVE THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY?

Could Louisiana be a major player in presidential primary politics? Not according to the present election day schedule. But what with a little fine tuning, the Pelican State could emerge as a major factor in deciding what candidate in both political parties starts off at the top of the heap. And it would not cost a penny.

 

Here’s the present scenario. Louisiana’s presidential primary date is set for February the ninth. The time slot was moved up several months by the legislature a few years ago in order to try to attract more attention from candidates vying for early votes and momentum.

 

Unfortunately, some 20 other states have moved their primary elections to February the fifth, making Louisiana’s day all but irrelevant. In that number are some of the larger states including New Jersey, Florida, California and possibly New York. So Louisiana, at least for the present, has become an afterthought.

 

But guess what? There is an attractive alternative that can move Louisiana right up to the very front. First, look at the current calendar of dates set for January and February.

 

JANUARY 2008

· January 14: Iowa (caucuses)

· January 19: Nevada (Dem caucuses)

· January 22: New Hampshire* (primary), Wyoming (GOP caucuses)

· January 29: South Carolina (Dem primary)

FEBRUARY 2008

· February (Date TBD): Montana, North Dakota (caucuses), Ohio

· February 2: South Carolina (GOP primary)

· February 5: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada (GOP primary), New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah

· February 9: Louisiana

· February 10: Maine (Dem caucuses)

· February 12: District of Columbia*, Tennessee, Virginia*

· February 19: Wisconsin

· February 26: Hawaii (Dem caucuses), Idaho (Dem caucuses)

Note that Iowa is first, set for January 14th, followed by the New Hampshire primary a week later. What could Louisiana do to gain national attention with no cost? Simple. Hold a non-binding presidential primary on November 14th, the day of the gubernatorial run off election. Louisiana is the nation’s only state that has a late election set for the end of the year. The legislature, meeting in a few weeks, could authorize a presidential beauty contest where each party’s voters could choose their favorite candidate two months before the Iowa caucuses.

Any serious presidential contender would have little choice but to spend time in Louisiana, run a media campaign, and build momentum for the early spring round of elections. It would be the nation’s first indication of what voters were thinking, what issues were important, and what candidates were the emerging favorites. Finish fifth in Louisiana and it undercuts any candidate’s effectiveness in raising campaign dollars and building major support as the new year approaches.

Since the state will be holding an election anyway, there would be no additional costs involved for the taxpayers. But a number of candidates could be expected to spend a good deal of money trying to garner national attention right here in Louisiana. And Louisiana supporters would have a chance to highlight Louisiana issues. It would seem to be a win, win for the state.

To prevent legal challenges by both national parties, the election would have to be non-binding, with a follow-up date in the spring. But even though the results would be non-binding, Louisiana would jump from irrelevancy to the leader of the pack.

So legislators, give it a shot. Bring the focus at the beginning of primary season right down to the deepest of the deep southern states. It would be fun for all of us down here to see the slug fest up close and first hand.

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“The best argument against democracy is
a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Sir Winston Churchill

Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown.

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