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House passes bill to move primary to April

Last evening, the Delaware House of Representatives passed House Bill 41, which would consolidate Delaware’s presidential primary, normally held on the fourth Tuesday in April, with Delaware’s primary for all other offices, held on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in September. Both primaries would now be held in April on the date of the presidential primary.

The vote was 36-5. Those voting no were Rich Collins, Andria Bennett, Bill Carson, John Kowalko, and Jeff Spiegelman. Three Democrats and two Republicans. And the Democrats span the ideological spectrum, from hard progressive (Kowalko) to centrist (Bennett) to conservative (Carson).

Two interesting issues regarding this change that I heard yesterday but had not seen reported: First, that this move saves approximately $1 million every four years. Second, that the state is under pressure from the Democratic National Committee to make the change due to the extreme lateness of the primary, and that the DNC was going to reduce our delegates if we did not do this.

Opponents complain that it hamstrings insurgent primary challengers to entrenched incumbents by shortening the time they have which to campaign, but such a complaint is ridiculous. Nothing is preventing a primary challenger from starting his or her campaign earlier in the calendar. The three months lost between late April and early September can be made up on the front of campaign calendar. No, if anyone is hamstrung it is incumbents who will be stuck in session performing their official duties instead of campaigning.

11 comments on “House passes bill to move primary to April

  1. Jack Polidori

    Precisely. Not to mention the fact that primary challengers who win — and compete in competitive districts — have a ridiculously short time period post-September primary (as it now stands) to raise the funds necessary to run an effective general election campaign. This is a heightened problem if said successful primary challenger is running against an incumbent. This swings both ways from a partisan perspective.
    The change is long overdue.

  2. Dustyn Thompson

    Yes, you can certainly start earlier, but three factors to consider there. One, the weather, it is hard enough to get people to canvass without being fridged outside let alone the hustle of the holidays interfering. Two, many who volunteer also advocate for policy, so not only will incumbent legislators be busy, so will many would be volunteers. Finally, people are paying far less attention that far ahead of the curve because the figure “well the vote isn’t until November.” Of course, this later issue is more prevelant with people who do not traditionally vote in primaries and certainly isn’t my main objection to the move.

    Additionally, however, WTH is up with DNC threatening us into doing this??? We should have moved on the other electoral legislation at the same time. How did the bill with the most disagreement, at least through my observation, get to pass first?

    • 1. If you’re going up against an incumbent and only starting when the weather is frigid, you’re starting too late. Challengers should, at the latest, be hitting the doors September of the year before the election

      2. The foregoing point applies to this as well. Challenging candidates should be hitting doors well before the GA is in session. Also, while many good volunteers do policy advocacy, the majority of volunteers I’ve met get involved because of a candidate, not policy.

      3. In my experience, it’s really only the two weeks prior to an election that people really start making up their minds.

      Honestly, the Laura Sturgeon campaign effectively laid waste to most of the arguments I’ve seen against moving the primary date. She started her campaign in April, started canvassing in May, and announced around late May, early June. She was able to ward off a primary challenger with some pretty heavy backing, and then went on to win fairly handily against an extremely well-entrenched long-time incumbent. Starting early really helped her and anyone who seeks to challenge the status quo, whether in a primary or in the general should follow her example.

      • ” In my experience, it’s really only the two weeks prior to an election that people really start making up their minds.”

        I think you mean that it’s only then that they start paying attention. This is actually an argument for leaving well enough alone.

        I see no reason to restrict challengers to those who start a year ahead of time. Mike Ramone, for example, did not become vulnerable until after the date people would like to move the primaries to.

        Again, you are talking about the benefits to a certain group of politically inclined people. The benefit to the public remains undemonstrated.

        • “Leaving well enough alone” is why progressives have so consistently failed in Delaware up to this point. Progressives and their policies win when they engage at the grassroots, which means starting early and engaging with voters even when they themselves aren’t yet super-engaged. Laura won because she was able to get out early and get people who weren’t normally engaged at that level. She picked up a huge chunk of her volunteers simply by knocking on their doors.

          As for Ramone, the reason he became vulnerable is because he got an opponent. if Stephanie Barry had gotten into the race in September of the year prior rather than just four months before the general, I’m pretty sure she’d be the rep of RD21 instead of Ramone.

      • cassandram

        ^^^THIS from Josh. You can count Tizzy Lockman in the crew that started early. Krista Griffith started early (as did Rachel). GG started early. Jordyn Pusey started early. They all didn’t win, but they sure put up a great fight. The people specifically arrayed against this see this model of intensive field work (because most of them do not do this level of effort) and see a threat. The best campaigns last cycle started in the Fall (at least), because if you start in January you really aren’t starting until spring — after you’ve built some infrastructure and gathered volunteers.

  3. Now, if we could only change the party rules to move our Convention actually prior to the general election, rather than the anti-climatic year after, we could have a real party building, enthusiasm cranking event to introduce our fantastic candidates. Don’t most State Parties do it that way? Another Delaware Way irrational thing tamping down turnout could be eliminated.

  4. First it’s 4 months.
    Second campaigning in January and February? Good luck getting volunteers for a local rd race in that weather.
    Third. When you raising money, during the holidays? Good luck again.
    This bill is meant to protect incumbents, period. If it takes effect for the 2020 election even more shame on those who pushed this.

  5. Will this take place for the 2020 elections?

  6. Without getting into detail this legislation is a mechanism to preserve the autonomy of the two party system. Similarly intended as was the “Fusion Ballot” repeal this type of legislation further innoculates the two party system in America (one of the major flaws in the American political system. It severely constrains any legitimately reform minded candidacies outside the staus-quo maintaining ruling classes. It even has written into it medieval restrictions on third party’s selections. It is as undemocratic as the super-delegate coronations that have become a major part of the Democrat party’s urge to preserve and protect the most powerful and wealthy interest in the party. Unfortunately the interests of the Republican party and its leadership are closely aligned with the self-preservation attitude of the Democrat party just as they colluded on the “fusion” ballot repeal. So unethical, immoral and crass is the attitudes of the bought and payed for, two major parties that they cannot afford to look inward. The only beneficiaries of these early primary rules will be those wealthy enough to send out mailer after mailer and buy media time during that short period when Joe Blow (brimming with policy ideas and plans) is left gazing wistfully out their windows at the snow and icicles awaiting their attempts to knock on that neighbors door. Do not kid yourselves. Ideologues will always wield the power in a limited and finite setting. Ideologues do not and usually do not promote ideas and policy changes to gain recognition and rest assured they do not want to compete with those who have ideas and policy changes. Neither party deserves absolute authority over all the people but for the only two major players half a loaf is better than none.
    Representative John Kowalko

  7. I suppose challengers to incumbents could just start their campaigns earlier, but making this change so close to the 2020 election would be hard on challengers for this coming election. Until now, potential candidates have understood that they have until abour a year from now to decide whether to run, plan their campaign, and get themselves ready to run. Passing this bill now would suddenly cut short their time by 5 months. I don’t think it’s fair to do that this late in the game. It would be much better if this took effect in 2022 or 2024.

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