Party rules may prevent changing primary day
By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — National political party rules may prevent efforts by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders to move up Alabama's presidential primary to get it off Mardi Gras and an increasingly crowded primary day.
House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Guin, and House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said Thursday they are looking at options for moving Alabama's primary forward, but party rules form a barrier.
The two legislative leaders had planned to push a bill during next month's legislative session to move Alabama's 2008 presidential primary from Feb. 5 to Feb. 2.
Fat Tuesday conflict
Their goal was to avoid a conflict with Fat Tuesday celebrations on the Alabama coast on Feb. 5, 2008, and get Alabama's primary off a primary day that is on the verge of growing to a dozen states.
Guin said Thursday that when he and Hubbard began researching the move with their national parties last spring, they were told they could go up to Feb. 1, but rules changed during the summer to make Feb. 5 the earliest date Alabama could use.
He said they did not become aware of the conflict until Tuesday, when they learned Alabama stood to lose delegates to the Republican and Democratic parties' national conventions by going before Feb. 5.
Hubbard, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said he is working with Guin and state Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham to review all options.
"I am committed and the Alabama Republican Party is committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure Alabama is relevant in the presidential race," he said.
Guin said he and Hubbard will still introduce their bill when the Legislature convenes March 6, but won't push it immediately while the state parties seek an exemption to the scheduling rules.
"If not, we'll probably leave it where it is. We both feel like moving it back is bad for the state. We are already seeing a lot of interest in Alabama by the candidates," he said.
Alabama is not alone in considering a date conflicting with party rules. A committee in the Florida House recently approved legislation to go before Feb. 5.
In the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, Alabama had a June presidential primary that was largely irrelevant because it was at the end of the primary schedule. In April, Guin and Hubbard got the Legislature to move the 2008 primary up four months to Feb. 5 to put Alabama near the front of the primary season.
Since then, several other states have moved up, and others, like California, are considering it.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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