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Bill would make New Mexico presidential primary first in US

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico currently brings up the rear when it comes to states holding presidential primary contests.

But that would change under a bill filed Tuesday that seeks to move the state to the national forefront by shifting its presidential primary to mid-January.

If approved, it would make New Mexico the first state to hold a primary, starting in the 2024 election cycle.

“Why can’t we be the bellwether instead of Iowa?” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, said in a Tuesday interview.

He said New Mexico’s status as a border state and its diverse population – the state is a “minority-majority” state in which Hispanics and Latinos make up 49% of the population – would make it a pacesetter and could give minority candidates a better chance at winning their party’s nomination.

In addition, moving New Mexico’s presidential primary to the second Tuesday in January – instead of the first Tuesday in June – could lead to more campaigns setting up shop in New Mexico and spending tax dollars here, Martínez told the Journal.

The bill would not change New Mexico’s primary election date for other races.

Other proposals have also surfaced in recent years to change the date of New Mexico’s presidential nominating contest but have largely failed to gain traction.

A 2015 Republican-backed bill to move up New Mexico’s entire primary election to March stalled in a House panel due to concerns that it could complicate state elections.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson also pushed for an earlier primary, and legislation was passed in 2003 allowing Democrats and Republicans to hold nominating contests before the June primary.

However, the Democrats’ presidential caucus in February 2008 was widely criticized, as it featured long waits at polling places and vote counting that took more than a week.

Iowa is currently the first state to hold a presidential nominating contest, as it held its caucuses Monday but did not begin releasing results until Tuesday afternoon because of technical problems.

The Hawkeye State is followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which all hold their nominating contests this month.

New Mexico will hold its primary election this year on June 2, which is tied for the latest date in the country, along with Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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