Florida Republicans are ready to ditch the first-up status in the 2016 presidential preference primary and are drafting legislation to move the date back to the third Tuesday in March.
The bill, to be offered by Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is expected to set March 15, 2016, as the new primary date, moving it into compliance with Democrat and Republican party rules and guaranteeing that Florida has a full complement of delegates for its native sons former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, should one emerge from the GOP contest, Richter told the Herald/Times.
“We want Florida to be meaningful and relevant in the presidiential elections,’’ Richter said. “We don’t want to come under any penalties and we want to have the candidates come to Florida and actively campaign.”
The switch would strongly favor Bush or Rubio over candidates from other states, and potentially allow the state GOP to award delegates winner-take-all. The Republican National Committee rules prevents a candidate from receiving winter-take-all delegates until after March 15, 2016 and any earlier than the 15th it must be proportional or state gets penalized. The Republican Party of Florida will make the decision when they set their delegate allocation procedures by Oct 1, 2015. .
The new date would reset the calendar back to where it had been before Rubio, the former state House speaker, and his colleagues upset their national party’s primary schedule by setting Florida’s contest earlier than allowed in 2008.
The state retained the early status in 2012 and both years were punished by party leaders who stripped them of half their delegates and Democrats banned candidates from campaigning in the Sunshine State in 2008.
Richter said the Florida primary will follow the traditional early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada but would eschew the effort by other Southern states to create a regional Super Tuesday on March 1.