May 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Georgia Democrats angle for early presidential primary

Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock wave

Joe Biden campaigns with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia in January 2021. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Georgia Democrats are planning to join a crowded field of states applying to hold an early presidential primary, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The news, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and confirmed by a party spokesperson, puts Georgia in direct contention with South Carolina, which is bidding to keep its No. 3 spot.

  • Holding an early primary gives a state outsized sway in choosing a party’s nominee. The early contests often give candidates pivotal momentum going into Super Tuesday.

Driving the news: Georgia has submitted its letter of intent to the Democratic National Committee, the spokesperson said. That's the first step in the process.

  • The next step will be to submit a formal application by next month, followed by a presentation to a DNC panel. The panel will propose a calendar with up to five early states, followed by a vote of the whole DNC.
  • The DNC has three criteria it's prioritizing: diversity, competitiveness in a general election, and the logistical and financial capacity to host an early contest.

Zoom out: Georgia's changing demographics (it's expected to become a majority-minority state within the decade) and its newly minted battleground state status make the best argument it's had in decades for the early slot.

What they're saying: Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the state Democratic Party, told Axios last month that the party sees the "benefit to making sure that our voices are heard early in the process."

  • "We see what happens in states like Iowa who get all of the attention around early presidential primary bids," she said. "Georgia has continuously shown up as the center of the political universe, and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be a part of the conversation in early primary discussions."

Flashback: Georgia wasn't a popular stop on Democratic presidential campaign trails until 2020, when Biden visited days before the election. It was the first time a Democratic candidate stopped in Georgia so close to November in more than two decades.

  • The state's twin 2021 Senate runoffs further thrust it to the center of the national political radar and handed Democrats control of the chamber.

The big picture: Georgia is the second Southern state to throw its hat into the ring against South Carolina.

Yes, but: Other states are deferring to the region's incumbent early state. "We are planning to support South Carolina's bid instead of pursue one of our own," Tennessee Democratic Party chair Hendrell Remus told Axios.

  • That's a stark contrast with the Midwest, where three states are already vying for Iowa's coveted first-in-the-nation contest: Nebraska, Minnesota and Michigan.
  • Other states looking to jump ahead in the calendar are Washington, New Jersey and Nevada.
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