Michigan legislators OK Jan. 15 primary

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature yesterday approved moving the state’s presidential nomination contests to Jan. 15, just days after national Democrats vowed to punish states that vote too early.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill, but approval of the switch is far from certain. A disagreement among state Democratic leaders over whether to hold a primary or a caucus is complicating final action.

If it moves up, Michigan Democrats risk losing all their national convention delegates, while Republicans risk losing half.

Seeking to impose discipline on the states, the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee voted Aug. 25 to take away Florida’s 210 delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Denver next summer. Florida Democrats were given 30 days to submit an alternative to its planned Jan. 29 primary.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis said he hopes the Republican National Committee will see fit to let Michigan hold its Jan. 15 primary without taking away half the state’s delegates to the national convention next summer.

“We understand that we’re violating the rules, but it wasn’t by choice,” Mr. Anuzis said, noting that state Democrats were the ones pushing to move to Jan. 15. “We’re going to ask for forgiveness and we think … we will get forgiveness.”

The presidential primary bill passed the House 67-34, with a mix of Republicans and Democrats voting for it. The Senate approved the House version 36-0 before sending the bill to Mrs. Granholm.

As a state with a large number of delegates to the nominating conventions, Michigan would command considerable attention from candidates by moving to a mid-January date.

Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell, who helped push the move to break Iowa and New Hampshire’s lock on the earliest presidential contests, said moving Michigan to Jan. 15 will force the presidential candidates to address issues such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and other problems being faced by large industrial states and the auto industry.

“We need to have the candidates talk about what’s the backbone of the American economy,” said Mrs. Dingell, president of General Motors Foundation and the wife of Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat.

Michigan’s vote comes less than a week after Wyoming Republicans decided to push their caucuses even earlier to Jan. 5. The primary scramble has continued unabated, and more moves are expected in the coming weeks.

South Carolina Republicans moved their primary to Jan. 19, forcing Iowa and New Hampshire to reconsider their dates to maintain their early status. Iowa caucuses had been scheduled for Jan. 14 and New Hampshire’s primary was tentatively set for Jan. 22. Nevada is scheduled to vote on Jan. 19.

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