Could Tennessee hold country’s first presidential primaries?

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UPDATE: Wednesday’s planned vote on this measure was postponed for two weeks.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A state Democratic lawmaker said he would introduce a bill Wednesday morning that would make Tennessee’s presidential primaries the first in the nation, but there are plenty of hurdles to make it happen.

Rep. Jason Powell of Davidson County hopes to make Jan. 2, 2024 the next time that Tennesseans would vote in a presidential primary.

“If we became the first state in the country to vote first, we would get a lot more attention from these candidates showing a lot more interest in Tennessee,” Rep. Powell said Wednesday, a few hours before he and Senate sponsor Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) held a news conference on their proposed bill.

Both think it’s time Tennessee moves its presidential primary after more talk this year that Iowa and New Hampshire do not reflect the voter makeup of the country. But, as the lawmakers know, it’s ultimately up to committees of the national parties — the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC).

“I think that states like Tennessee, if we go first and set this date, then the RNC and the DNC are going to revisit and you already know that they are going to have to revisit because of the complete disaster the Iowa caucuses were this year,” Powell said.

New Hampshire has a law that says the state goes a week before any other presidential primary, but the Tennessee date of Jan. 2 would make the New Hampshire primary around Christmas.

The state’s Republican party chair Scott Golden calls the presidential primary bill an “interesting concept.”

“I think there are going to be a lot of states that are exploring how to break–lets just call it the franchise–that Iowa and New Hampshire had have for 75 years,” says Golden. “And why not Tennessee?”

But the national parties have threatened cutting the all important delegates a state has if there are unapproved changes to the date for a presidential primary.

The Tennessee Democratic Party said in a statement that the group does not support the bill, because it could result in Tennessee being penalized by the national party.

“The DNC sets the rules and schedule for presidential primary dates. In previous years, when other states have violated the rules by leapfrogging the set schedule, they have been penalized by losing all their delegates, leaving their voters with no voice at the national level. The TNDP will continue to partner with the DNC and discuss any problems, and potential changes to address these problems, directly with their office.”

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