A commission of Florida state legislators officially announced its intent on Friday to move up the Sunshine State’s primary date — and shake up the rest of the GOP primary calendar.
The new date for Florida primary voters is now January 31, meaning it will join Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada by voting among the earliest group of primary contests.
Florida’s somewhat brazen move, however, violates rules set earlier by the Republican National Committee. Those rules forbid any except those four sanctioned states from holding a primary election before March 6.
Florida Republicans, however, have argued that the state’s importance in the Electoral College, its swing-state status, and its representation of American voters should earn it a standalone date.
“It makes no sense to people here in Florida that we end up either very late in the process … or even if we’re fifth, sixth, or seventh, but we’re sharing a date with a whole bunch of other states,” Brian Hughes, communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, told The Daily Caller.
Moving the date to January 31, Hughes argued, “makes sense so we know the eventual nominee can prove themselves in this state.”
While Florida has only demanded that it be fifth in the primary order, the four early states have bristled at the calendar maneuvering. Republican Party chairs in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada all issued a joint statement, Thursday, promising to move in front of Florida if it should leapfrog them too early into January.
South Carolina Republican Party spokesperson Matt Moore told TheDC that Florida’s movement doesn’t change the Palmetto State’s relevance. “It’s still going to be first in the south,” Moore said. “It’s an easy state [for candidates] to campaign in, meet voters, and spread their message.”
“Florida is extremely relevant nationally, and has always wanted to be among the early primaries,” he added. “All South Carolina has tried to do is make sure the calendar isn’t compressed into January.”
South Carolina and Florida butted heads four years ago during the 2008 primary calendar process. Then, when Florida bumped its contest up to January 29, the Palmetto state ended up moving its date from Feb. 2 to Jan. 19.
Since Florida’s calendar-jump violates RNC rules, its delegates will likely face penalties. Specifically, Florida may face losing half of its delegates’ votes in the nominating convention — an event which will take place in Tampa.
“Florida should have penalties” and should be “held accountable,” said Moore. “[It’s] unfair to the earlier states.”
The Florida committee vote wasn’t unanimous, Several members argued that the loss in delegate votes at the convention wasn’t worth an earlier primary.
State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, however, responded to those concerns by downplaying the nominating convention’s importance, saying it is “nothing more than a coronation of the de facto nominee.”
“It’s not about anyone else’s irrelevancy — It’s about Florida’s relevancy,” Hughes said of his state party’s decision. “Why not have a primary process that reflects that?”