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State House likely to vote in GOP primary this week

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League
Michigan Legislature at the State Capitol building.

The state House is supposed to vote before the end of the week on legislation to hold Michigan’s Republican presidential primary in March of next year. That’s after the House Elections Committee adopted the bills that many Republicans hope and expect will make Michigan a player in next year’s GOP presidential sweepstakes.

But Republicans are still trying to decide which date will give Michigan the most influence in choosing the nominee while still complying with national party rules. Some say that date is March 1 of 2016, because it’s the earliest Republican National Committee rules allow without the state facing big sanctions that would cost it critical influence at the 2016 national convention in Cleveland.

But the Michigan Republican executive committee has asked for a March 15 date. That’s the earliest under RNC rules that the state could have a “winner-take-all’ primary where all the state’s nomination votes go to a winning candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the primary. The idea is a win-it-all election would be more attractive to presidential candidates.

Representative Lisa Lyons chairs the House Elections Committee. She says it’s tough to gauge how to leverage the most influence in the primary process.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in what other states are doing, aren’t going to do, may do,” she says. “I’ve always been of the opinion that we’d be more relevant going earlier in the process, but this isn’t a one-woman show, and there are a lot of partners that we have to   work with … but I do know what I want Michigan to be relevant.”

But the March 1 date would also put Michigan up against the so-called “SEC primary” of southern states. Many Republicans are looking toward a March 15 “Big 10 primary” of Midwestern states as a potential counter-point that would be a big lure to candidates looking to land a treasure trove of delegates.

GOP leaders want the bill done this week before the state Republican convention this coming weekend.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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