NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Washington State Senate approves bill to create a usable presidential primary in 2020

A thought­ful­ly craft­ed bill that would make it pos­si­ble for both of Wash­ing­ton State’s major polit­i­cal par­ties to use a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry to allo­cate their nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates in 2020 if they so choose has cleared the State Senate.

ESB 5273, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt (D‑22nd Dis­trict: Olympia) eas­i­ly passed by a vote of twen­ty-nine to eigh­teen this morning.

The bill would do the following:

  • Move the default date of Wash­ing­ton’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry from the fourth Tues­day in May to the sec­ond Tues­day in March (as in cur­rent statute, the date remains admin­is­tra­tive­ly change­able if the par­ties want to move it);
  • Put the major par­ties in charge of deter­min­ing which names appear on their respec­tive pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry bal­lots, instead of the Sec­re­tary of State;
  • Require that the arrange­ment and form of the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry bal­lots be estab­lished in con­sul­ta­tion with the major parties;
  • Allow a major par­ty to request an “Uncom­mit­ted” option on their ballot.

All these changes will result in a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry that com­plies with the nation­al rules estab­lished by the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

“A new pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry sys­tem would allow for greater vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion, expand­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ access to democ­ra­cy,” Sen­a­tor Hunt said in a state­ment fol­low­ing the vote. “It will pro­vide Wash­ing­ton vot­ers with an easy and effec­tive way to par­tic­i­pate in the nom­i­na­tion of the next president.”

Pri­or to final pas­sage, the Sen­ate defeat­ed an amend­ment spon­sored by Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Hans Zeiger that would have ruined the bill, mak­ing the pri­ma­ry unus­able by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Zeiger’s amend­ment would have required the cre­ation of a third, mean­ing­less, “straw poll” bal­lot for vot­ers not wish­ing to affil­i­ate with either of the two polit­i­cal parties.

Although the pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry is sev­er­al decades old, it has nev­er been used by both major par­ties before. The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­cans have his­tor­i­cal­ly used the pri­ma­ry to allo­cate at least some of their nation­al del­e­gates, and in recent cycles, they’ve used it to allo­cate all of their nation­al del­e­gates. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has repeat­ed­ly cho­sen not to use the pri­ma­ry in favor of cau­cus­es. That has prompt­ed the Leg­is­la­ture to can­cel the elec­tion… once in 2004 and again in 2012.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is now con­sid­er­ing whether to use a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry to allo­cate its 2020 nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates. If it does, it will still hold cau­cus­es to select who goes to the con­ven­tion on behalf of its can­di­dates, as well as to adopt plat­forms and res­o­lu­tions. How­ev­er, vot­ers who only wish to express a pres­i­den­tial pref­er­ence would be able to do sim­ply by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the primary.

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee (WSDCC), of which I am a vot­ing mem­ber, will make a final deci­sion in April.

Assum­ing ESB 5273 is adopt­ed by the House and signed by Gov­er­nor, Inslee in the next few weeks, the WSDCC will have a real choice between a pri­ma­ry-cau­cus hybrid Del­e­gate Selec­tion Plan and a cau­cus-only Del­e­gate Selec­tion Plan.

The WSD­C­C’s choice is of more inter­est than the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s choice for 2020 because the Repub­li­can Par­ty is expect­ed to con­tin­ue its fer­vent embrace of Don­ald Trump, who is a can­di­date for anoth­er term. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic field of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates is already crowd­ed, with no defin­i­tive front run­ner, and is get­ting more crowd­ed every week.

The roll call on ESB 5273 was as follows:

Roll Call
ESB 5273
Pres­i­den­tial primary
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 29; Nays: 18; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Das, Dhin­gra, For­tu­na­to, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, McCoy, Mul­let, Nguyen, Palum­bo, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Takko, Van De Wege, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire), Zeiger

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Bai­ley, Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Erick­sen, Hawkins, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, King, O’Ban, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Wag­oner, Walsh, Warnick

Excused: Sen­a­tor Wil­son (Lyn­da)

NPI con­grat­u­lates the Sen­ate on the pas­sage of this impor­tant, need­ed bill.

Two Repub­li­cans vot­ed with all the Democ­rats in favor of the bill: Phil For­tu­na­to (R‑31st Dis­trict) and Hans Zeiger (R‑25th Dis­trict). We thank them for their aye votes. It is dis­ap­point­ing that more Repub­li­cans did not vote yes.

We urge the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to take it up and adopt it with no amend­ments so that it can land on Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk for his signature.

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One Comment

  1. OK, pri­maries are bet­ter than cau­cus­es on small‑d demo­c­ra­t­ic grounds, but Bernie would have won a “usable” pri­ma­ry anyway.

    The only rea­son Hillary won the non-bind­ing pri­ma­ry Kim Wyman forced into being was that Bernie’s cam­paign did­n’t in any cam­paign in it — since there were no del­e­gates at stake, there was no point in the Sanders cam­paign wast­ing time and mon­ey when numer­ous pri­maries and cau­cus­es in sev­er­al oth­er states, in which del­e­gates were actu­al­ly at stake, were occur­ring at the same time. 

    A pri­ma­ry should be put in place because it’s a bet­ter means of allo­cat­ing con­ven­tion del­e­gates — NOT as part of some point­less effort to de-legit­imize Bernie’s strong show­ing in the 2016 cam­paign. And it needs to be accept­ed by one and all that it would have made no dif­fer­ence in the out­come in Novem­ber if Hillary had faced less pri­ma­ry oppo­si­tion or been nom­i­nat­ed by accla­ma­tion.… the prob­lems in her cam­paign were total­ly unre­lat­ed to any­thing Bernie and his sup­port­ers ever said or did.

    # by Kenneth Burch :: January 30th, 2019 at 3:21 PM
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