Sept. 20, 2006 — Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, which lead the nation in choosing early presidential candidates, the West has, because of much later primary election dates, had the least impact on the presidential nomination process. But that may change if Western states unite behind a common primary date.
The idea of a “Western Super Tuesday” will be explored at the upcoming day-long symposium titled “Western Presidential Primary Election,” to be held on Friday, Sept. 29, at the Marriott City Center, 220 S. State St., in Salt Lake City. (Media are invited, but must pre-register for the by-invitation-only event. For media registration only, call 801-585-5899.)
Featured speakers will include Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., who last spring signed legislation authorizing a presidential primary in Utah for the first Tuesday in February, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who championed the idea of a Western primary several years ago following the successful 2004 presidential caucus in New Mexico and the successful primary election in neighboring Arizona.
Organized by the Center for Public Policy & Administration (CPPA) at the University of Utah, the symposium will gather public officials, party leaders, practitioners and academics to explore the potential of hosting a presidential primary in the Western States. The event will also examine the challenges of implementing a primary, the possible impact of a Western states primary and the potential of attracting presidential candidates to Western states for use as early stumping platforms.
The 2006 Symposium will also feature several panel discussions, comprised of both practitioners and academics that investigate the multitude of issues surrounding a Western presidential primary election. A panel discussing press coverage of presidential elections will include Marc Ambinder, associate editor of the online political journal “Hotline,” and Martin Kasindorf, USA Today reporter who has covered every presidential campaign since 1976.
“If a Western states primary comes to pass, visits by presidential candidates to these states are sure to follow,” says Jennifer Robinson, CPPA research associate. “If Western states-Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana-band together they will have more influence over the presidential nominee process and more attention will be focused on Western issues, including water, energy, public lands, growth, Native American tribal issues, energy resources and immigration.”
States that hold primary elections later in the campaign season don’t receive much attention from candidates, explains Robinson, pointing to the fact that Montana”s 2004 presidential primary election was held in June, nearly six months behind Iowa, New Hampshire and most other states. “As a result, not one presidential candidate visited the state,” she reports. “Not even one.”
The idea of a Western states primary is gaining bipartisan support across the West, notes Robinson. “Most of the states support the idea of a common election primary date,” says Robinson. “Some are waning because of the cost, but are determining the payoff would be worth it.
“Even though we are two years away from the presidential race, every politician who thinks he might run for president-John McCain, John Edwards and John Kerry-visited Iowa the second week of August. Why? Because it was the Iowa State Fair. They were all there, shaking hands and kissing babies,” says Robinson.
The Sept. 29 symposium is sponsored by the CPPA, The Western Policy Research Network, the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, the Utah Republican Party, the Intermountain Power Agency, the Utah Democratic Party, Chevron and Micron Technology Inc.
For more information, visit http://www.westernpolicynetwork.org/ or call 801-585-3048.