Apr 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Washington state to jump on early primary bandwagon

Data: Axios research; Cartogram: Sara Wise/Axios

Washington is joining a series of states angling to jump ahead in the Democratic presidential primary calendar and dethrone Iowa and New Hampshire from their first-in-the-nation perch, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Democrats are considering ways to make their nominating process more diverse and representative of the country. The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee triggered the jockeying last week by voting to let states apply to hold an early primary.

  • The process will move fast: States have just two months to draft formal applications and presentations for a DNC panel to consider.
  • The full DNC is scheduled to vote in August.

State of play: Several states have well-publicized plans to apply to hold one of up to five early primaries. They include New Jersey, Nebraska and Michigan.

  • Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, told Axios it plans to apply. She cited her state's "broad diversity" that "mirrors the Democratic Party," as well as its all-mail voting system.
  • Minnesota is "planning on putting in a bid" as well, state Democratic Party chair Ken Martin told Axios.
  • Party officials in Texas, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Arizona, Alabama and Utah told Axios they're considering bids, too.
  • "We are always looking for ways to highlight the great state of Georgia and will be following this new development closely," Rep. Nikema Williams, the Georgia Democratic Party chair, told Axios in a statement.
  • Three current early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — are fighting to keep their spots, while Nevada is angling to move up to first.

What they're saying: Nevada DNC member Artie Blanco said her state has a "realistic" shot at leapfrogging New Hampshire.

  • Its diversity "provides presidential candidates the ability to prove they can put together the broad coalition needed to win the general election."
  • Diversity is also driving other decisions: some states are ruling out bids because of a lack of it.
  • “Wyoming has a very homogeneous population," said state party spokesperson Nina Herbert. "We feel it’s the right thing to do to allow states whose populations are more representative of the country as a whole have that first opportunity.”

Between the lines: Democrats hope to create a primary calendar that gives some priority to states more closely reflecting the national electorate — racially, economically and geographically.

  • They also want states that are competitive in the general election and have the financial and logistical capacity to hold early primaries.
  • But many state parties in purple and red states are having to navigate the fact their Republican-controlled legislatures or state officials have the final say.
  • Others worry an early primary could give prospective Republican presidential contenders an added incentive to stump for candidates in their states and supercharge voter enthusiasm ahead of the midterms.

The Midwest is the region to watch. Iowa’s use of a caucus system, lack of diversity and drift from purple to red-tinted state make it a prime target.

  • "The real question is which state, or states, from the Midwest will be part of that early window," said Martin. He added that Minnesota has a "long list" of assets, including its diversity, high voter turnout and well-run elections.
  • Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) told Axios her state's diversity is central to its pitch. In Iowa and New Hampshire, she said, candidates are "not talking to a diverse audience. They're not talking about issues that are going to matter in the general election."
  • Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said her state is positioning as an Iowa alternative, because "a small [agriculture]-based state has to be in the first five," and it's "the perfect choice because we have an electoral [vote] at play."
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