Primary move puts Alabama in the spotlight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2006

Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire's primary has long attracted national and international media attention for being the first step in the nation for presidential hopefuls seeking their party's nomination.

Legislators are hoping a law moving Alabama's primary from June to February will bring the same sort of spotlight to this state.

&#8220It will bring national candidates here to Alabama,” said Rep. Charles Newton (D - Greenville). &#8220And we will have more of a voice in who that candidate will be.”

Previously, Alabama's presidential primaries were held the first Tuesday in June. Under the new law, the primaries will be held on the first Tuesday in February, which for the 2008 presidential election, places the primary on Feb. 5.

&#8220Anytime we can give Alabama a stronger voice in national politics, we should,” said Riley. &#8220We'll go from having one of American's last primaries to have one of the first. That means candidates for the nation's highest office will spend more time in Alabama listening to our opinions and paying attention to our concerns and values.”

States who hold presidential primaries later in an election year usually receive only token attention from candidates and their parties. And hardly no interest from the national media.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D - Luverne) praised the move.

&#8220I'm old enough to remember when Alabama used to play a major role in choosing the president,” he said. &#8220All the way back to Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt and up to Dwight Eisenhower. Hopefully this bill will direct some attention to this state.”

Newton said he was initially concerned with moving the primary, simply because the estimated cost to Alabama taxpayers is $1 million. But an earlier primary could generate upwards of $3 million in revenue for the state, he said.

&#8220I'm not real sure how I feel about it,” said County Commissioner Frank Hickman. &#8220I'm optimistic it will work, but I'm not sure if it was worth spending time in the legislature about. From the county commission standpoint, it will cost us money to host another election and I certainly hope the state will be able to reimburse those funds.”

Hickman wondered if Alabama's nine electoral votes would even bring presidential candidates to the state.

&#8220I hope I'm pleasantly surprised,” he said.