Presidential primary moves to March

By Jeff Whitten

The 2012 Tennessee presidential primary is moving to March.

A law passed by the General Assembly moves the state’s presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in March in 2012 and in following elections. 

The law passed the Tennessee House of Representatives by a 91-2 vote. Rep. Vance Dennis, who represents McNairy and Hardin Counties, as well as part of Decatur County, voted for the law.

It passed the state senate by 32-0, with St. Sen. Dolores Gresham voting in favor. Gresham represents McNairy, as well as several other counties.

According to Blake Fontenay, Communications Director for the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office, both the national Democratic and Republican parties requested the move. The reasons are the problems with front-loading, which creates problems for candidates and parties.

Under new rules by both parties, any state that holds a primary or caucus before March 1, except for certain states such as New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, would lose half of their delegates to the national conventions.

Dennis said the change was about Tennessee remaining relevant in the process and that the change had bipartisan support.

Joe Maness, Chairman of the McNairy County Republican Party, expressed the concern that moving the primary might lessen Tennessee’s influence in the process.

“It could already be settled by then,” he said. 

McNairy County Democratic Chairman Jeff Lipford shares some of these concerns but does not oppose the change.

 “I don’t see a problem with the change in the date of the presidential primary. I do believe an earlier primary may put more emphasis on Tennessee. In the last several Presidential campaigns, there has been very little emphasis on Tennessee or money spent on the Presidential campaigns in Tennessee. The primary was moved after agreement from both parties. There was no disagreement among the two parties on setting the date for the primary.”