WatchBlog: Presidential Primary Process Needs Reformed

By westvirginia on July 25, 2011
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By Steven Allen Adams

This weekend members of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee spoke loud and clear: they said no to a party convention to choose their 2012 presidential nominee.

“Despite our strong belief that West Virginia be relevant in the Presidential selection process, we are also committed to ensuring that West Virginia voters not be confused by a complicated process and that independent voters continue to be encouraged to join with us in Republican elections for Republican solutions,” Stuart said.

WVGOP chairman Mike Stuart was pushing the convention plan to give the state’s Republicans a greater say in the 2012 presidential nominee selection process. He meant well, but apparently he forgot he campaigned for his chairmanship on the promise he wouldn’t try another primary. He forgot about 2008.

I never forgot about the 2008 state Republican Party presidential nominating convention. I was a reporter for the six-station Results Radio network, based out of Parkersburg, W.Va. I remember getting kicked out of a meeting where members of the convention steering committee were explaining the process to the Wood County Republican Executive Committee. Then months later they blamed the failure of people to register online for the convention on lack of media publicity.

We tried, but it was apparent the powers that be that year didn’t want information about the convention in the hands of working Republicans. They wanted to limit who was involved so a select few could be kingmakers and make a little money on the side for the party. They failed on both counts, instead making the state a laughingstock after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won due to shenanigans, and barely breaking even.

The WVGOP didn’t want that stigma again, and made the right choice by unanimously voting to keep the traditional primary process. Stuart meant well, including reforms to the 2008 process that would have opened up more. But still, it would have disenfranchised many, including the state’s independent voters.

Now the rallying cry is move up the presidential primary to an earlier date. This has never been an issue until now; it wasn’t even an issue in 2008. But Stuart is pushing Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, the acting governor, and the Legislature to move up the date. Nevermind the fact that if Stuart was truly concerned about moving the primary up, he would have been pushing this idea sooner. Or the fact that likely the only special session we’re going to have is in August, where lawmakers will tackle redistricting.

”We strongly support being relevant in the selection of the Republican nominee. We overwhelmingly want our the 2012 Presidential selection process to be moved to a time earlier in the process but we want that process to occur through a primary, not a convention,” Stuart said.  “We remain committed to moving the WV Primary earlier in the selection process to protect our coal miners and other important state interests and we reaffirm our position that Earl Ray Tomblin and members of the Legislature move up our Presidential Primary for 2012. We will continue to work for an earlier WV Primary and 2012 and beyond.”

Should West Virginia move up the presidential primary? No. Does the primary process nationwide need reformed? Absolutely. The problem isn’t us; it’s the Republican National Committee. The RNC needs to crack the whip on states that keep moving their primary and convention processes earlier. Does it really matter which state has the earliest primary? The national convention isn’t even until August usually; why are we trying to decide presidential nominees in winter?

The RNC needs to set when states hold primaries and conventions and set them up in a way so states have a chance to get candidates to their states. I can’t blame Stuart for wanting to get candidates to the state so Republican voters can make good choices. But for every state that moves up their primary date, another state will move it up earlier and so on. There needs to be some rhyme and reason.

Also keep in mind that even though the state’s primary falls 38th, that means there are 12 states that have primaries and conventions farther back than we do. West Virginia has been a very important state for Republicans. This state gave its support to George W. Bush twice and Sen. John McCain in 2008. Anyone who thinks this state won’t matter in 2012 is silly.

So keep the primary where it is. The national process needs reformed first.

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Posted under Blog, Elections, Politics, West Virginia.
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