MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A bill introduced by Alabama State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) would move the 2016 Alabama Presidential Primary up to March 1st, joining other Southern state in what has been dubbed the “SEC Primary.”
Sen. Ross said both Democrats and Republicans around the state are in favor of his bill.
This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to maneuver Alabama into a place of relevance in the nominating process.
In most presidential election years through the 2004 cycle, Alabama held its presidential primaries in June, often long after voters in other states had essentially decided the outcome of the races. So lawmakers passed a bill that moved Alabama’s presidential primaries up to the first Tuesday in February.
But in an effort to condense the primary campaign calendar, both national party committees passed a rule cutting in half the number of delegates a state could send to the party convention if they held their primary before the first Tuesday in March.
So in 2011, the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature passed a bill moving the presidential-year primaries to the second Tuesday in March alongside Mississippi. As a result, several candidates visited the state and the ALGOP was able to host a presidential forum featuring Rick Santorum — who eventually won the Alabama primary — and Newt Gingrich. However, the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, only dropped into the state to hold a high-dollar fundraiser and didn’t actively campaign, ceding Alabama to more conservative candidates without much concern because of its limited importance.
The SEC Primary plan would likely make Alabama and other Southern states much more influential in picking the party’s nominee.
Sen. Ross called his bill an “economic stimulus,” because it would encourage presidential candidates, and their massive cadres of campaign staff, to spend more time in the state.
The plan is being viewed as good news for conservatives, who believe the GOP needs to stop nominating candidates they view as being too moderate, but is concerning for some in the more establishment wing of the Party who fear that a Southern Super Tuesday could pull the eventual nominee to the right and damage them in the general election.
Last year, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill penned an op-ed published in Yellowhammer endorsing the idea.
“In 2016 our voice can be much louder by joining with other Southern states that are so often forgotten,” Merrill wrote.
The bill has been approved by the Senate committee on Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee, and will move to the Senate floor this session. It will still need to be approved by the House and Governor before becoming law.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015