In an effort to make North Carolina a significant part of the 2016 presidential election, Senate lawmakers are pushing changes to the state’s presidential primary, including moving the date to March 15.
House and Senate leaders said late last week that they had reached an agreement to settle how the primary will be handled.
The Senate’s redistricting committee began carrying that out, voting unanimously Monday to write new procedures for conducting the 2016 presidential primary that also include a “winner takes all” format.
The candidate that wins the state’s primary would get all of the state’s delegate votes, which should make the Tar Heel state an even more attractive campaign stop, lawmakers said.
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North Carolina already has been a target for Republican candidates because it has the sixth largest number of delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Initially, lawmakers had hoped to hold the primary immediately after South Carolina’s at the end of February. However, Republican National Committee leaders said that would break party rules and cost the state all but 12 of its 72 delegates to the national convention in Cleveland.
The RNC only allows four states to hold primaries as early as February. South Carolina is one of them.
Other state primaries to be held on March 15 are Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Missouri.
Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican and vice chairman of the committee, said that moving the primary to March 15 would allow the state to keep all its delegates while also moving it to the forefront of the presidential election. Brock added that it would also bring the state’s issues to a national conversation level, the same way the use of ethanol is a priority topic because of Iowa’s early primary.
“What will also be interesting in North Carolina, is because we are so diverse, and this year especially, there are open seats in both primaries, political scientists will be poring over the data that comes from our primary,” he said. “This is the biggest focus group. And we don’t have a favorite daughter or son in the race, the way Florida has Rubio and Bush.”
“I could extrapolate a lot from the data,” he added. “So goes North Carolina primaries, so goes the nominees and who wins the presidency.”
Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat and committee member, said he didn’t see the Republican-led effort to move up the primary as something that would hurt Democrats.
But he noted that other races in the state would still have a later, May primary under the plan.
“What could occur in terms of a side effect is that there will not be as many people coming out to vote in the May primary,” he said.
The bill is House Bill 373, and still needs approval from the full Senate before it would go back to the House.