Voters in six Southern states will head to the polls March 1 to participate in what’s being dubbed the “SEC Primary” in the presidential race.
But Louisiana — home to one of the most recognizable schools in the athletic conference for which the election date is nicknamed — won’t have its say until four days later.
At least one candidate pursuing a Southern strategy skipped stops in Louisiana recently, focusing only on the “SEC Primary” states, but Louisiana’s political parties say they aren’t worried about being left out of the pack and that Louisiana could be in a better position this way.
The Legislature last year voted unanimously to move the date of the state’s presidential primary up a couple of weeks, to March 5, so that voters here would be better positioned to have a say in the national nominating process.
The Legislature, which focused much of its work this session on addressing a potentially devastating budget shortfall, didn’t take up legislation that would have switched the vote to Tuesday. Unlike most states, Louisiana typically votes on Saturdays.
Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said Georgia’s secretary of state, a driving force behind the creation of the SEC Primary, reached out to Louisiana, hoping to encourage the state to join the others on what’s alternately being called Super Tuesday or the “sweet tea primary.”
“When the offer came from Georgia, there was no real interest in changing it again, so it did not move forward,” Casper said.
Both political parties have said they aren’t concerned by being a few days behind the rest of the Southern crowd.
“Not being swallowed in the crowd on Super Tuesday means Louisiana has the potential to get some more focus from each of the candidates in that four-day stretch,” said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Beau Tidwell. “That’s a good thing for Louisiana voters and for the process as a whole.”
Five Democrats have announced their candidacies for president.
Jason Doré, director of the state GOP, said he also sees the benefits a later date could give to Louisiana.
“We believe Louisiana is in a good position,” he said. “We are just a few days later and don’t have to compete with states who have many more delegates on the same day.”
Even though one Republican candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, recently skipped Louisiana on a Southern swing, Doré said he still expects that many of the Republican hopefuls will make trips to Louisiana closer to the primary date. Currently, 17 Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, are seeking the GOP nomination for president.
“I’d expect to see more of them, but they are likely to focus on the four carve-out states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — through early next year,” Doré said.
Under national party rules, states that hold primaries prior to March 15 will split their Republican delegates proportionally among the leading vote-getters.
The Southern states taking part in the SEC Primary are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
Mississippi will have its primary the following week — a few days after Louisiana’s.
The Super Tuesday vote will come right on the heels of the so-called “first in the nation” states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Leaders are hoping that getting so many states on board for one date — and the mandatory delegate split — will give the South more weight in the nominating process.
Proponents of the grouping have argued that the region has suffered in recent elections from “Southern neglect,” with the South playing little role in deciding who the parties’ candidates in the general election will be.
“History has shown us that the South is generally overlooked when it comes to choosing the president,” those proponents argue on a website promoting the SEC Primary grouping.
“States with smaller populations and scattered election dates have caused the South to be pushed aside for states and regions with a larger concentration of delegates.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.
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