Georgia election chief dashes Dems’ dream of frontrunner relevance with March 12, 2024 primary

By: - May 5, 2023 1:00 am

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock says that a move up the presidential primary calendar in 2024 for Georgia might benefit candidates for the Republican Party like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if Democratic President Joe Biden runs for re-election in 2024. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Georgia will return to the national political spotlight next spring when the state is scheduled to hold the 2024 presidential primary that could provide a final boost needed for which candidate emerges as the Republican challenger.

Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Thursday that March 12, 2024, is the date for next year’s partisan primary, which squashed wishes of the Democratic Party of Georgia for a Feb. 13 contest that would put the state in a prominent position with the earliest slated state primaries.

The Democratic National Committee had given Georgia party leaders a June deadline to prepare for becoming the fourth state to host next year’s primary election, which would signify the state’s growing influence in national politics.

However, state Democratic Party officials were unable to persuade the Georgia Republican Party and Raffensperger to agree to their request. Georgia’s secretary of state holds the power to make the decision independently.

Georgia’s 2024 presidential primary is 12 days earlier than the 2020 presidential primary, which was originally scheduled for March 24, 2020, before being postponed to June 9 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The state’s 2016  primary was held on March 1 of that year.

There will be a two-week early voting period leading up to the 2024 primary. Raffensperger told reporters during a Thursday afternoon press conference that March 12 ensures that political parties, candidates, voters, and election workers have time for a smooth election process.

In less than a year voters across the country will begin selecting the next president of the United States and Georgia will capture the national attention, he said.

“If you can win Georgia, you can win national,” Raffensperger said.

President Joe Biden has announced his plans to run for a second term if Democrats nominate him, as is likely. That could set up a rematch if GOP ex-President Donald Trump earns his party’s nomination.

Raffenperger’s announcement is the second significant political setback for Georgia Democrats in the last few weeks after Chicago was selected over Atlanta to host next year’s Democratic National Convention.

The state’s Democratic leaders argued for a bigger national role after Georgia voters shifted the balance of power in Congress in the 2020 election by helping Biden and Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win their races.

As part of their all-out lobbying campaign to win the convention bid, Georgia Democratic leaders secured $20 million in financial commitments. Billionaire JB Pritzker and his Illinois allies pledged they’d ensure the Democrats could walk away debt free if the 2024 convention came to Chicago.  

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Georgia promoted the election events as a potential financial windfall as delegates and other party members, national media, and political campaigns and committees spend money on hotels, food, advertising and more for the convention and primary.

Based on an April study commissioned by the state Democratic Party, Georgia could generate $1.12 billion for its economy if a 12 candidate primary were held on Feb. 13.

However, Kennesaw State University economist J.C. Bradbury criticized the $1.1 billion projection cited in the report by Emory University economist Tom Smith.

“They’re not believable numbers whatsoever,” Bradbury said. “And when you think about it, Georgia is having a primary no matter what, whether it’s early, whether it’s late.”

Along with Trump, the announced 2024 GOP primary field also includes former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was an ambassador to the United Nations; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; conservative radio host Larry Elder; and entrepreneur and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy.

While Trump has been leading GOP voters in a number of polls by a healthy margin over his potential primary opponents, the intensity figures to ratchet up if his former allies turned bitter rivals, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, jump into the race.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.

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