The split primary blues

Republicans have them.

Republican lawmakers turned up the heat on the Texas GOP leadership Wednesday, asking them to keep Texas’ primaries on a single election day while their own party continues to push for two primaries, one in March and a second in May.

Most of the Texas congressional delegation signed a letter sent late Wednesday to a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio,which presided over earlier challenges to the state’s redistricting maps, asking it to back a solution that would keep all of Texas’ primary contests on the same day. Earlier Wednesday, 15 of the 19 Republicans in the Texas Senate issued a joint statement, making a similar request.

“Unless it is absolutely necessary, which it may be, … [the second primary] is sort of the mother of all unfunded mandates,” said GOP state Sen. Kel Seliger, who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee.

Seliger said he was concerned that a second primary election would confuse voters and election officials and reduce turnout.

Yeah, that’s pretty much what the Democrats have been saying. The GOP officeholders will deny that they’re worried about their own chances against a teabagger opponent in a low-turnout primary, but we all know that they are. I do have some sympathy for them, and am glad they’re speaking up about this. And yes, the cost of a second primary, and a second runoff, is not trivial and counties will wind up absorbing much of it, to the detriment of other things they have budgeted for. That reason alone should be enough to support a single election date.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with separating the Presidential primary from the other races. A number of states do exactly that, which allows them to have meaningful participation in the Presidential process while not requiring candidates for other office to commit to it so early. If we want to talk about exploring that option for 2016, I’ll be happy to join in. But springing this on the electorate in 2012 with no prior discussion and lumping in a bunch of other races with the Presidential contest while separating out only the legislative races, that makes no sense at all. Not being able to have the March primary that everyone is used to will be a big enough unexpected change. We shouldn’t make it any worse than that.

Finally, a Profile in Courage award to AG Greg Abbott:

Back when he was asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told the high court that it should move the primaries for legislative and congressional races to May 22 while keeping everything else on March 6.

But when MALC’s chair, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, sent Abbott a letter today calling on him to support a unified primary, Abbott shifted course.

Now he tells the Quorum Report it’s not his job to get involved in the conduct of primaries.

Here’s the letter Rep. Martinez Fischer sent. Kind of late for AG Abbott to say he doesn’t want to get involved, isn’t it? Having the state take the unified primary position would bring this to a much swifter resolution. At this point, I’m not sure who besides Steve Munisteri is advocating anything else, but as yet we have neither an agreement nor a court order. BOR has more.

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