Mo. Presidential Primary
5:39 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Mo. GOP switches to party caucuses for choosing presidential candidates

The Missouri Republican Party is abandoning the presidential primary and will use the caucus system to choose delegates for next year’s presidential race.  The decision comes as a bill that would move the party primaries from February to March remains stalled in the Missouri Senate.

The national GOP had given the state until midnight on October First to move the presidential primary to March, or else risk losing half its delegates.  State GOP Executive Director Lloyd Smith says if Missouri goes ahead with a presidential primary in February, it will not count.

“It will basically, from our perspective, just be a straw poll," Smith said.  "Our delegates will not be bound by that particular beauty contest...our delegates will be bound by the caucus process.”

Smith says any self-professed Republican voter will be able to take part in next year’s caucuses.

County-level caucuses will be held March 17th.  More information on the caucuses and corresponding conventions can be found here.

State Senator Kevin Engler (R, Farmington) is disappointed by lawmakers’ failure to pass the presidential primary bill.

“It’s been a complete screw-up," Engler said.  "(We) should have got(ten) this done in the spring, now we try to do it in the special session (and) it got caught up in the economic development bill."

Engler added, "but we’ll go forward…I agree, if we’re not gonna be able to have the delegates seated, we might as well go to a caucus.”

Engler now wants Governor Jay Nixon (D) to expand the call of the special session to allow lawmakers to eliminate the presidential primary.  He says doing so could save the state around $6.5 million.

Meanwhile, an official with the Missouri Democratic Party says they’re weighing their options on whether to switch to caucuses or stick with the presidential primary system.

Missouri used to be a caucus state, but switched to the primary system in 1988 when former Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt sought the Democratic nomination for president.

Lawmakers in both chambers and from both parties overwhelmingly passed a bill to move the primaries to March during the regular session -- but it was vetoed by Governor Nixon because it would have also required special elections to fill vacancies in statewide offices and in U.S. Senate seats.  Currently the governor has the power to make appointments to fill those vacancies.  Nixon says using special elections would cost the state millions of dollars. 

The Associated Press reported this related information earlier today:

 Missouri Republicans are considering bailing out of a planned February presidential primary that has threatened to confuse the 2012 election calendar.

State law sets Missouri's presidential primary on Feb. 7, which would make it the second primary in the nation, which could cause other states to move their contests to jump ahead of Missouri. Attempts to push the primary to March, as national party officials prefer, have faltered in the Missouri Legislature.

The Missouri Republican State Committee was to meet Thursday and could consider using caucuses held in March or later instead of the state's early primary election.

National party rules require Missouri to wait until at least March for its presidential contests. Missouri would risk losing half of its 52 Republican delegates for voting too early.