Isles lose bid to hold early primary for Dems
WASHINGTON » Nevada, not Hawaii, will hold an early Democratic primary in the leadoff nominating contests for president in 2008.
In an effort to provide more diversity in early voting, the Democrats' rules and bylaws committee recommended that Nevada be allowed to hold a caucus the Saturday after Iowa's leadoff caucus -- likely to be held Jan. 14. The rules panel also awarded South Carolina an early primary, which would be held a week after New Hampshire's Jan. 22 primary.
The full Democratic National Committee will have to approve the decision during its August meeting in Chicago before the changes are put in place.
Ten states plus the District of Columbia had applied for the openings: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia.
"It's a great disappointment to us that we didn't get it -- to get this close and miss," Beverly Jean Withington, vice chairwoman of the Hawaii Democratic Party, said yesterday.
Had Hawaii been chosen, Withington said, "it would have made us more significant in the eyes of any national candidate."
In Hawaii's favor were the fact the state has a high proportion of union membership and a high level of ethnic diversity, Withington said. Working against the state are its distance from the mainland, which makes campaigning here expensive, she said.
The moves were praised by Alexis Herman, a co-chair of the rules panel, who said it was appropriate to make such changes "soon after the renewal of the Voting Rights Act," which protects the rights of minority voters. Almost a quarter of Nevada's population is Hispanic and more than a quarter of South Carolina's population is black. Iowa and New Hampshire are predominantly white. But some raised warnings that the move was risky.
"We're fooling with a lot of history here, a lot of tempers," said veteran Democratic strategist Harold Ickes. "We need to proceed with caution."