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Messing with the primaries

It’s like deja vu all over again.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has filed a bill to move up the primary one month in even-numbered years, to the first Tuesday in February.

Patrick said people in both parties should support the measure because it would give Texas a greater say in presidential elections.

“I’m tired of other states, mostly smaller, picking the nominees for president,” Patrick said in a statement.

It’s not clear the move would actually give Texas parties more clout because national rules governor state primary timing.

Democratic Party spokeswoman Tanene Allison said such an early primary would violate her party’s national rules and prevent Democratic delegates from being seated at the national convention and casting votes for the nominee.

“We strongly oppose it,” she said.

So much for people in “both parties” wanting to support it. All due respect, but the idea of Dan Patrick having the best interests of the Texas Democratic Party in mind is rather a stretch. But look, we’ve been down this road before. There was a lot of bills in the 2007 Legislature to move the primary up to February on the grounds that it would give Texas voters more of a say in the outcome. As we Democrats may recall, having the primary in March as usual was the best thing that could have happened, since the race was still very much in doubt and there were no other primaries between Super Tuesday and ours, meaning that the attention of the entire country and both the Obama and Clinton campaigns were right here that whole time. If Greg Abbott hadn’t appealed the original interim map from the San Antonio court to SCOTUS, the March primary in 2012 would have been very meaningful for the Republicans, quite possibly giving a major boost to Rick Santorum. (It likely also would have allowed David Dewhurst to survive the GOP Senate primary, but that’s a side issue.) Who’s to say that a March primary wouldn’t be meaningful in 2016? I was supportive of the effort in 2007 to move the primary up, but at this point I’d say leave it alone.

Senate Bill 452 also would apply in non-presidential years. The filing deadline, if the bill passed, would be moved to the second week in November starting with the 2014 elections, according to Patrick’s office. Patrick is among those talked up as eyeing a run for statewide office.

Democratic consultant Harold Cook said besides affecting the presidential primary, an early primary tends to help incumbent legislators and members of Congress seeking re-election.

“There is just simply less time for a challenger to get known,” he said.

Yes, it does benefit incumbents, which means it will benefit Republicans in general in 2014 for statewide races, not that they need the help. I don’t have a problem with wanting to make Texas more of a player in the Presidential nomination process, but after the last two races I think we ought to be wary of the idea that this requires an earlier primary date. Trail Blazers has more.

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