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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dems want primary moved; Haridopolos likes the early date



The battle lines are forming over whether or not Florida should continue to hold its presidential primary election weeks before other states in open defiance of the wishes of national party leaders.

Two Democrats have filed bills to move the primary back to March 6, reversing the Jan. 31 primary date set in 2008 that caused the National Democratic Party to strip Florida of some of its delegates. Rep. Marty Kiar, D-Davie, and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, filed the measure and have the support of Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith. But Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island and a candidate for U.S. Senate, said he's not interested.

"I happen to think the position we’re in right now is the correct one,'' Haridopolos told reporters at a press availability. "We’re going to most likely decide the president of the United States and it would make most sense if we did it early in the process. I’m still open to discussion on it. The good news is we have the convention here in Florida."

Smith, the Florida Democratic leader, doesn't expect his party to have to deal with a major challenger to President Obama. 

"With the Republican National Committee adopting the same timing for the first time ever, setting the example of bipartisan cooperation, it is our sincere hope that the Republican Legislature will pass the legislation from Sen. Joyner and Rep. Kiar and will ensure full representation of our state at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions," Smith said.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and legislators moved the 2008 primary to Jan. 29, leapfrogging several other states such as New York and California and set on the same day as South Carolina's Democratic primary. The date remained behind the traditionally early caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and the New Hampshire primary. National Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus has already urged Florida Republican Party chairman Dave Bitner to lobby to move the date back.

Meanwhile, Hariodopolos said he has invited several of the Republican presidential candidates to come to Tallahassee. “They’ve reached out to me. I’ve reached out to them. I think it’ll be beneficial in Florida to find out some of their ideas because we face a multitude of problems in the state and if a person seeking the presidency I think they should come to Florida and let us know what they think.”

Haridopolis dismissed the significance of the turf war that resulted between national party leaders and Florida leaders after lawmakers moved up the primary in 2008. “I didn’t see it as chaos. I thought it was great,'' he said. "I thought Florida was a player. Whether you read Game Change or David Plouffe’s book, or others, Florida influenced in a huge way not just who won the presidency but who the nominee was.”

“Everyone recognizes that Florida is the most important state for the presidency … We’re the most important state because whoever wins Florida is the nominee … I hope Florida has a larger role in picking our next nominee.”

Katie Betta, spokeswoman House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said the speaker has no opinion on the bills but wants Florida to "remain a key player in the primary process."


[Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 4:14pm]


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