Michigan's hopes for a new Democratic primary fade
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm talks with guests after addressing the Southeast Michigan Business Community on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008, in Detroit.(Photo: ©Jerry S. Mendoza/AP Images)
The Michigan State Legislature adjourned Thursday without setting a date for a new primary election. Legislators begin a two-week recess on Friday, making a new primary for the Wolverine State improbable.
This year, Michigan set its primary election for January 15, breaking Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules. The DNC wanted all but four states—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina—to vote on or after Super Tuesday, on February 5. Because of this violation, Michigan's 128 delegates may not have their votes counted at the Democratic National Convention in August.
Usually, at this point in a primary race, both the Republican and Democratic candidates have been chosen. This year, however, the Democratic race is too close to call. Michigan's uncounted votes could make a difference in deciding between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But the hopes for a primary redo are quickly fading.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm proposed legislation to hold a new primary on June 3. The $12 million election would be paid for with private donations. The legislature won't approve the bill unless both the Clinton and Obama campaigns agree on its provisions. And if they don't agree today, there may not be another chance, explained Megan M. Brown, deputy press secretary for Governor Granholm.
A primary election has to be set no later than 60 days prior to the general election date, she told Scholastic News in an e-mail interview. "If legislators do not act on the bill this week before they begin their regularly scheduled recess, it will preclude the primary from happening on June 3, as the 60-days-prior date falls during their recess period," she wrote.
In other words, if legislatures don't agree by Thursday, March 20, the window of opportunity for a redo will pass. Thursday afternoon, they adjourned for spring break without taking action.
More Campaign Confusion
Clinton's campaign supports the new legislation and has accused the Obama camp of holding up the process. Senior Clinton adviser Harold Ickes told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that Michigan legislators say they will approve the bill if both candidates agree on its provisions.
"Clinton clearly is on the record that she wants it," he said. "If Obama came out this afternoon and said he was behind the Granholm bill, then it would happen. We would have a primary."
But Obama's campaign supporters don't like the new legislation. "[The bill] is so riddled with problems that it overwhelms any possible positive outcome for the people of Michigan," Senator Buzz Thomas, a Detroit Democrat and co-chair of Obama's campaign in Michigan, told reporters.
In the January primary, only Clinton's name was listed on the ballot, and neither candidate campaigned in the state. Clinton received 55 percent of the vote.
If Michigan's delegates are not seated at the Democratic National Convention, Ickes says, it will hurt the Democrats' chances in the state during the general election.
"In Michigan, there's no excuse [for not having a redo]," he said. "The Democratic governor has drafted legislation and is trying to put it through."
Governor Granholm's proposal does not support one candidate over another. "This debate is all about giving people the right to vote," the Governor's spokesperson said.
Florida delegates are in the same situation. The Sunshine State also held a primary in January, against Democratic Party rules, and lost its delegates to the convention. Clinton won Florida too and wants those delegates counted. Obama's name was on the ballot in Florida, but neither candidate campaigned in the state.
In the meantime, without these two key states, neither candidate can win the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The decision may have to be made by superdelegates at the August convention. Democratic Party faithfuls worry that not including votes in Michigan and Florida, will hurt the Democrats in the general election. Republicans have already chosen a candidate and are spending their time raising money to support Senator John McCain's bid for the White House.
Read all the Scholastic Kid Reporters reports on election action in Michigan here.ELECTION 2008
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Kayla M. Gough is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.