February 5 presidential primary moves forward

The campaign to move Oregon's presidential primary from May 2008 to February 5, 2008 - joining over a dozen other states considering that move - is gaining steam.

If Oregon moves its primary election to February 5, our vote-by-mail system will ensure that ballots are mailed between January 16 and January 20. The Iowa caucus is on January 14, the Nevada caucus on January 19, the New Hampshire primary on January 22, and the South Carolina primary on January 29.

Oregon voters would be the first voters in America to start voting statewide in a presidential primary - though results won't be known until Election Day, February 5.

From the Statesman-Journal:

A bill to add Oregon to the growing number of states planning a Feb. 5 presidential primary next year won approval from an Oregon House panel Wednesday after backers said Oregon's late-in-the-game May primary has become increasingly irrelevant.

The proposal, endorsed by the House Rules Committee, will get a side trip to the Legislature's budget-writing panel so that lawmakers can study its $2 million-plus price tag. However, a top House Democrat said there's strong support for moving Oregon's presidential primary to Feb. 5, and the plan likely will win approval in the full House.

House Majority Leader Dave Hunt makes the case:

"It has a lot of merit, because it makes sure that Oregon issues will be prominent" in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes, said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone.

Meanwhile, today's Oregonian has an op-ed from GOP consultant (and Gordon Smith confidante) Dan Lavey - who also makes the case:

The political and financial benefits of moving our primary would far outweigh the $2.8 million it is projected to cost state taxpayers.

By next year, we will know where most of the candidates stand on issues of national significance -- Iraq, tax policy, health care, immigration. But unless Oregon becomes a player in selecting the nominees, the candidates, their campaigns and the media that follow them won't give a second thought to issues of particular significance here.

What do the major candidates think of former Gov. John Kitzhaber's ideas on health care? What about vote-by-mail elections or Sen. Ron Wyden's tax reform plans? What about forest health issues, timber policy and proposals to remove Columbia River dams? Do candidates have opinions about the Bonneville Power Administration, assisted suicide, deepening the Columbia River channel, allowing casinos off reservation lands?

There's only one way we can ever know.

Questions: Does it make sense to spend $2.8 million to ensure that innovative Oregon ideas and important Oregon issues get on the frontburner of the presidential campaign? Will moving up to February 5 - and ensuring that Oregonians are the first Americans to vote in a presidential primary - actually encourage candidates to visit Oregon and discuss Oregon issues?


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    Although I cringe at the price tag, which I would do for anything probably, I think moving the primary is a neccessity. If Oregon is ever going to insure that the issues important to us are realistically addressed, than we have to move to the forefront and send the message to candidates that they better see Oregon as important to their success, and not just an afterthought.

  • spicey (unverified)

    removing Columbia River dams? Noone's talking about that (your lights would start to flicker...). It's removing the 4 Snake River dams :) that people are hoping for.

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    I love Oregon but I'm not sure why Oregon's issues deserve more attention than Oklahoma's issues or Ohio's issues.

    It seems like the best solution is the rotating calendar system. It's fair to all states and will preserve the idea of the retail-politics primary. (When 20+ states move their primaries to Feb. 5th, expect media buys to once-and-for-all trump town halls.)

    Until then, we should stay above the fray. Let's show some class and keep our May primary date.

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    One more thing -

    Why is it such a big deal that Oregon's "big issues" are addressed in the presidential primaries? How much can we expect beyond some stump speech shout-outs?

    Sure, Iowa has the whole ethanol thing but who, beyond some farmers, has that really helped? Not the political process. Not the country.

    Just calling it like it is.

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    At the risk of being an iconoclast, I have begun to wonder whether this leapfrogging strategy to move up primaries is really going to ensure that states (and particularly small states) see "their issues" addressed in the campaign.

    Currrently, according to Project Vote Smart, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IL, KS, MI, MO, MT, NJ, NM, NY, OK, RI, TN, TX and UT will all conduct their primary on February 5.

    That means that if Oregon joins the herd, we will be 48 of the 1976 pledged delegates at play that day. (You can find a handy chart of the delegate breakdown in this PDF.) Given the complexities of the process I may have that count wrong, but the ratio should be the same.

    Regardless, not exactly an overwhelming reason for candidates to make Oregon a must visit on the campaign trail.

    Of course some will likely point out that if we hold back, it just provides more reason to skip us. But the larger problem remains that in this beggar-your-neighbor strategy, everyone loses. Given that two thirds of pledged delegates will determined that day regardless of whether we switch, it seems that major primary reform is a must for 2012. I personally am interested in looking at a rotating regional schedule - but that is for another post.

    But in the here and now, I'd suggest a more effective strategy for ensuring the campaigns take us into account is being proactive to build operations on the ground here. Kudos to Kari and the rest of the OR Edwards team for their recent announcement. Similar efforts for the other candidates can induce them to visit. Granted largely for money, but those trips will also include public events and exposure to local press who can get answers on Oregon issues.

  • Jim (unverified)

    I agree that the rotating calendar is the best solution. However, this idea has been floating around for years with no action.

    I think Oregon (and every other state) moving their primary to the same day will actually help make the rotating primaries a reality.

    I have another thought on the front loading of primaries... I think it helps the "underdogs". They can concentrate on specific states that may be more open to them. If three or more candidates win in different states, that keeps the race going for awhile, rather than being narrowed down to one after South Carolina.

    Of course with BIG states (CA, NY, FL) part of the super duper primary, winning a few small states won't matter much.

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    I think it's a bad idea.

    With so much front-loading this year, there is a strong possibility that we are going to have a campaign season that runs long, and a convention that actually matters in the candidate selection process.
    Moving Oregon up in the primary season will only get us lost in a cacophony of other states with more electoral votes such as Texas, New York, Florida, Illionis, and California.

    Candidates will have to make choices about what media markets to play in, and they won't play in all of them. If we're lucky, moving the primary forward will get us (maybe) one visit by candidates who decide to compete in California.

    Our electoral votes are likely to have a whole lot more meaning down the stretch than they will by trying to go head to head with the states on the aforementioned list.

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    I suspect Lavey's calculus about money flowing in to the pockets of political consultants is the big reason why many of them want the primary moved forward, but as consultants often do, they are fighting the last campaign.

    Thanks to the front-loading, 2008 is going to look nothing like any campaign we've seen in recent memory.

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    Of course, those who are pointing out that Oregon would just be one of many states on February 5 are missing that critical detail:

    We will start voting BEFORE New Hampshire. Oregonians will vote first.

    Our local media is loathe to do "exit" polls of people who have already turned in ballots - which is easily done, since the lists are public - but does anyone think that at least one national media outfit or pollster won't do it; at least for the novelty factor?

    If we move our election day February 5, we will DEFINITELY play a huge role in setting the national stage for all the people who won't get to vote until that day - twenty days after Oregonians start getting ballots.

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    The front-loading our primary system will continue to be a problem so long as every state picks its date.

    In '52, we had 18 primaries in 15 weeks, now we have close to if not over 40 in just about the same amount of time. We've created a very chaotic system, that vomits out candidates on our front door step either the day before or the day we vote, if you don't have a primary before Super Tuesday. If the mission of the primary was to remove "the party machine" or "party bosses" and the smoke filled rooms, I think we've done that, "Mission Accomplished".

    Now we can let our 10 candidates run for several months, hold a national primary day. Every democrat in every state can vote between them all. If candidate C was my candidate, but didn't last until the Oregon primary, I don't have to choose between candidate A or B just because, they're the only ones left.

    The media has already made these primaries and caucus national campaigns. 24 hour news, the internet allows me to attend the Iowa caucus. From my experience in Iowa, the only difference between making a phone call for John Kerry there and here in Oregon was, I didn't talk about Hoglots.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    I'm just not convinced that this is the right bandwagon for Oregon to jump on. If there will be primaries taking place after February 5th, isn't there actually a stronger chance that, come May, a couple of candidates might be in a dead heat, and those 48 or so delegates from Oregon could make-it-or-break-it for them? Wouldn't Oregon then stand a chance of playing a stronger role at the end, then it could ever possibly at the beginning, when CA, NY etc. are taking up the all of the rest of the country's attention?

    I think Oregon would just get lost in the fray of a nationwide February 5th primary.

    Maybe if it was January 29th. But with everyone going to the 5th, I don't think the argument is strong enough to switch from May.

    And I don't think that $1.5 million figure is meaningful. Where does that come from, and does it represent an additional allocation needed from the Legislature (for what, exactly?) or just an estimate of staff time that is already budgeted because those staff are already state/county employees, and have been for some time in their status as civil servants?

    cheers, ~Garlynn

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    If there will be primaries taking place after February 5th, isn't there actually a stronger chance that, come May, a couple of candidates might be in a dead heat,

    No. Maybe still in mid-March, but not by late May.

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    Oh, and on the money question: That's mostly postage and printing for ballots.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    How is it not possible for candidates to be in a dead heat come May? I mean, hypothetically? Is this just historical precedent?

    As for the money -- so, that represents money that would be spent anyways, no matter when the primary was held. Unless Oregon held the presidential primary February 5th, then a second election later in the year, between the primary and the national election in November -- which wouldn't make much sense, now would it?

    So, if the money would be spent anyways... it really wouldn't cost anything to move the primary, would it?

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    They discussed the money thing at their work meeting last week.

    Basically, what they are looking at is moving the March local election to Feb 5 and combining it with the presidential primary. Only about 10 counties have a March local election.

    In the counties where there would be a March election, the state and the county will split the costs of the election. In the counties without a March election, the state would pick up the tab.

    They looked at the cost of recent special elections and then figured in expected turnout, cost increases since then, etc., and then came up with a figure of what it would cost to hold this extra election.

    So, if this passes as it was discussed last week, about 2/3 of the county would have one extra election in the first half of the year, the other 1/3 would have their March election moved up.

    And even with the front loading, I agree with Kari that I have a hard time believing there will be that much of a contest come May. By then there will be so few delegates left, that it's impossible to see a situation where there could be people who are still that close.

    Chances are that by mid-February, most candidates will be out. We may be down to 3 or 4 by that point. By mid-March, I have the feeling we'll have our candidate. There may still be a race for vice president for a little while after that.

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    If we move our election day February 5, we will DEFINITELY play a huge role in setting the national stage for all the people who won't get to vote until that day - twenty days after Oregonians start getting ballots.

    Sounds like wishful thinking to me.

    Yes, Oregonians will receive their ballots before other states. Yes, they will turn in their ballots before other states. But the actual results won't be published until after the polls close everywhere else.

    No. Maybe still in mid-March, but not by late May.

    Of course, that's sheer conjecture. It's not really even an educated guess since we've never had a primary season front-loaded as we're going to have in 2008.

    My guess, and this is also conjecture, is that given who we have in the Democratic field, we could wind up with 2 or possibly 3 candidates splitting a majority of votes, and there will be no real incentive anyone to (publicly) concede their delegates prior to the convention.

    If that happens, the race is as likely to be competitive through August as it is to be decided by March, regardless of what the big funders want.

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    I predict if it passes, candidates will ALL be in Oregon during the voting in January. Number one, they will be speaking to the only voters who ARE ACTUALLY VOTING in the country.

    And I think the opposite is true about California: it will bring people here. Obviously Cali's delegates will be a huge draw for candidates, and they will spend plenty of time there. But for 2 weeks before Cali's primary, Oregon will already be voting--and it appears Washington will move theirs to 2/5 as well.

    Democrats especially will wander up and down the coast more than once during that period, I'd wager.

    Far from being lost, we'll be at the forefront if this happens.

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    Garlynn -- Here's the deal on the money thing. We have a regularly scheduled primary election in May 2008. Under the law now, in addition to all the regular stuff, we'll vote for president.

    If we move it to February, we won't move everything else. Instead of one election in May, we'll have one in February and one in May.

    We also have a minor election in March. (Hard to believe, but Oregon has four scheduled elections a year.) To deal with some minor amount of the cost, as Jenni pointed out, the March election will move up to February. Many counties won't actually have anything on that ballot - but those that do, won't have any additional cost.

  • Dave (unverified)

    The uniqueness of the Internet warnings, came to late for me and so I voted for Mr. Bush; the Globalist. After I came back to me senses, I have signed up as a Independent. However, I have made it a point to follow the platforms of each presidential contender in 2008. Like smoke signals the World Wide Web, has given an avenue of intelligence to all who research the viable individuals. All better be aware that to pander to the open border lunatics and the plaque of blanket amnesty, will fall. Wanabee's who sign on to (NAU) North American Union, with the corporate CARTELS initialising this nightmare will also die a political death. Most citizens also realize that these two agendas are connected.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    The priamry bill will likely die in Ways and Means unless someone can justify spending $3 million on an earlier primary. I personally can't justify it.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    Thanks for the explanation, that's exactly what I was asking, though perhaps not eloquently enough: Would this proposal mean that the May election would move up to February?

    Apparently, the answer is -- no, there would be one election in February, a second in May, and a third in November. That's three, with March moving to February. When is the fourth regularly-scheduled election? (forgive me for not remembering exactly how many ballots I received & returned over the course of 2004....)

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    March, May, September, and November

    This year we'll have a May election and potentially a September one.

    Next year we'll have at least a March, May, and November one. Potentially we'd have a February, May, and November one.

    For Multnomah County-

    2006: May, September, and November 2005: March, May, September, November 2004: February, May, June, September, November 2003: January, March, May, September, November 2002: March, May, September, November

in the news 2007

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