Texas May Join Other States With Feb. 5 Primary In '08 - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

02/15/07 - Austin, Texas

Texas May Join Other States With Feb. 5 Primary In '08

A state as huge as Texas shouldn't have a paltry primary that's irrelevant in the presidential sweepstakes, say supporters of legislation that would move up the date of the primary to February 2008.

Republicans and Democrats alike are pushing to move the primary election from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. They contend it would give Texas voters a real say in each party's nomination for president.

Rep. Leo Berman, a Tyler Republican and chairman of the House elections committee, said Wednesday he will support one of the bills that's soon to be filed moving the primary date and the candidate filing deadline up a month.

House Speaker Tom Craddick seemed to give his stamp of approval Wednesday.

"Most (House) members that have talked to me about it are pretty well into doing that," Craddick said. "They would like to move it up."

Several other big states, including California and Florida, also are considering moving their primaries to Feb. 5 in 2008. The effect could be replacing the old Super Tuesday in March with a new slate of impact primaries a month sooner.

"Super Tuesday is no long super, it's just Tuesday," said Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, who filed legislation to move the primary date. "If it moves up to Feb. 5, it's 'Super Duper Tuesday.'"

Caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina launch the presidential race. Texas and other states fall weeks or months later.

As it stands now, Berman said, presidential candidates hit Texas to collect large amounts of cash, but they don't have to spend much time campaigning here because nominations are often sealed by the time of Texas' primary.

"They just come in here for a quick fundraiser and get out," Berman said. "We want to be a part of the campaign, too."

Along with Martinez Fischer, Democratic Rep. Roberto Alonzo of Dallas has introduced a bill that would move the date to Feb. 5 next year.

It's time for Texans to get the attention they deserve in the presidential race rather than having their primary be irrelevant and follow smaller states, Alonzo said.

If Texas' primary is earlier, it will also ensure that the growing Hispanic population gets its issues addressed by presidential candidates, he said.

"We need to get the primaries that reflect the country, and the primaries that decide the election now don't reflect the country," Alonzo said. "We've grown a lot, especially California, Texas and New Mexico. Texas and California have big chunks of voters."

Martinez Fischer agreed and said Texas is a "snapshot" of the rest of the country.

"The Texas of today is tomorrow's America, and it's important that we have a stake in picking our presidents," he said.

Presidential candidates have been making trips through Texas well ahead of the 2008 election. Next week Democrats John Edwards and Barack Obama are expected in Austin.

In 2004, Texas primary voters found themselves casting only symbolic votes in early March.

On the Democrats' side, the ballot listed candidates who'd already withdrawn from active campaigning because Sen. John Kerry had essentially wrapped up the nomination. In the Republican primary, President Bush was unchallenged.

The Texas Democratic Party has been vocal about wanting a February primary.

"Texas is the second-most populous state in the country and voters in both parties deserve a say-so in who the presidential nominee is going to be," said party spokeswoman Amber Moon. "Presidential candidates will court Texas voters more heavily, and they will have more of a voice in the nomination process."

Republican grassroots leaders are largely supportive of moving the primary to the first Tuesday in February, said state party spokesman Hans Klingler.

"They do not want Texas to be ignored and used solely as a giant ATM," Klingler said. "Some have concerns about the logistics of the filing deadline which will be addressed in the pending legislation."

Berman said the legislation he will support would allow state primary candidates to begin filing their required paperwork around the end of October through the month of November, rather than through the month of December.

Martinez Fischer said he hopes that a bill already filed by one of the Democrats can be adjusted to satisfy chairman Berman's concerns.

"It's very rare for bills to pass on their first draft. The art of legislation is to perfect the legislation," he said.

The primary election bills are HB 993 and HB 996.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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