Florida's legislatively-dominated presidential primary committee began discussion today on a plan to formally shake up the primary calendar. On the table: the GOP plan to officially set Florida's primary calendar for Jan. 31.
Democrat and former Sen. Al Lawson moved to set Jan. 3 "I don't think that Florida needs to take a back seat to any state. We are a mega state,'' he said. He noted that other states are considering moving their dates and "I don't see where being fifth is any real position we ought to be in."
There was no second. Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera replaced the motion with a plan to set it for Jan. 31 because, he said, other states have boxed us in. "It is the best date for the state of Florida,'' he said. "It would give us a place that our citizens deserve."
Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, moved to set the date to March 6 "to give delegates for each party an opportunity to participate." He said the Democratic Party continues to be penalized and they want a chance to participate.
Lopez Cantera countered: "The conventions have become nothing more than a coronation of the de facto nominee that has been determined by the states,'' he said. He noted that in 2008, Sen. John McCain's nomination was "a formality."
"Since our taxpayers are pyaing for this election, it's important for them to get as much bang for the buck as possible," he said.
Lopez Cantera noted that when Florida bucked the party and set its primary date for Jan. 31 in 2008, Republican voters participation soared from 19 percent to almost 50 percent.
Former Gov. Bob Martinez seconded the Lopez Cantera motion. "We're the biggest swing state in the nation,'' he said, noting that Florida has 10 more electoral votes than Ohio. "Florida is a closed primary state. Most states coming before us are either open or they are caucus...It will be the best indcator as to how well you will run as a Republican or a Democrat."
They agreed that it was undetermined how many party delegates would be lost as a result of the decision.
Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat, said she agreed that we should set the date later to abide by party rules and seconded Siplin's motion to set the date as March 6.
Rep. Seth McKeel said that "tickets to the convention" should not "deter the voices of the people in our state." He said that waiting until March would mute the impact of Florida's voters.
Failing a second, Lawson withdrew his motion. Lopez-Cantera moved a stand-alone motion and Thrasher seconded it.
Lawson said he agreed "Florida needs to be a player" because of the financial impact the primary will have on the state of Florida. "It is more important for states such as Florida to not be on the back end but to be on the front end of these primaries," he said.
Sen. Rene Garcia said he believes we should respect the traditional early primary states but Florida "should take an active role in the presidential primary selection."
Stafford asked what happens if the delegates are needed and a race is close when it comes to the convention.
Lopez Cantera said the last brokered convention was 1952 for Democrats and 1948 for Republicans. "Today's modern convention, I believe...has become a formality and a coronation of a nominee that has been determined by the amount of coverage he gets in a 24-hour news cycle."