Attempting to push North Carolina closer to the front stage of national politics, state Senate lawmakers unanimously voted Tuesday to move up the date of the 2016 presidential primary election to March 15.
Accompanying the earlier primary will be a “winner takes all” format, meaning the candidate that wins the state’s primary will take all the state’s delegate votes.
Both the Republican and Democrat national parties are comfortable with this new date, lawmakers said. The new procedures and date are included in House Bill 373, which must go back to the full House for a concurrence vote before being sent to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.
Initially, lawmakers had hoped to hold North Carolina’s primary as early as the end of February to immediately follow South Carolina, but Republican National Committee leadership said it would penalize the state for breaking party rules. That move would have cost the State Republicans 60 of their 72 delegates to the national convention in Cleveland, something the state GOP party urged lawmakers against.
The RNC only allows four states to hold primaries as early as February. South Carolina is one of them.
Other state primaries to be held on the same day as North Carolina’s are Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Missouri.
Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican, introduced the bill on the floor Tuesday saying this will make the state a key player in the presidential election, move the North Carolina’s issues to the national stage and make the Tar Heel state a more popular stop on candidates’ campaign trails.
North Carolina already has been a target for Republican candidates because it has the sixth largest number of delegates to the Republican National Convention. The NC GOP convention this year drew big-name speakers to Raleigh such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, businessman Donald Trump, Gov. Scott Walker, and Dr. Ben Carson.
Brock said in an interview Monday that he saw high-ranking members from every major Republican campaign at the NC GOP convention, and a number asked him whether North Carolina would have an early primary in 2016, indicating their interest.
Brock added that it would also bring the state’s issues to a national conversation level, the same way the use of ethanol is a priority topic because of Iowa’s early primary.
“What will also be interesting in North Carolina, is because we are so diverse, and this year especially, there are open seats in both primaries, political scientists will be poring over the data that comes from our primary,” he said.
“I could extrapolate a lot from the data,” he added. “So goes North Carolina primaries, so goes the nominees and who wins the presidency.”
Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, said Monday that the state Democrats are supportive of moving the presidential primary to March. He said the only negative impact it might have is a decreased voter turn out in the May primary, which will still take place with the new plan.