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Bill to move up NM’s primary elections stalls in House committee

A proposal to move up New Mexico’s primary election date stalled in a House panel today, though the bill’s sponsor said he intends to make changes to the legislation and bring it back for more debate.

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-6 on a motion to table the bill, meaning it’s still alive but treading water.

The vote broke down along party lines, with Democrats opposing the bill and Republicans supporting it.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said shifting the date of the primary election from the beginning of June to mid-March would complicate many state elections, since lawmakers and other state officials are barred from raising campaign cash during legislative sessions.

“The idea of making the New Mexico presidential primary earlier is well received, but to move all of them would be problematic,” Maestas said after today’s hearing. “The culture would change to campaign mode all the time.”

The legislation, sponsored by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, is aimed at increasing the state’s influence in presidential elections, starting as soon as 2016.

Backers of the measure say New Mexico’s current primary date makes the state largely irrelevant in presidential nominations and say moving the date up could lead to more visits from high-profile national candidates.

“Moving up our primary would shine a spotlight on our great state and compel presidential candidates and their staffs to stay in our hotels, spend money on advertising and give the people of New Mexico a chance to get involved in the process,” Gentry said in a statement.

He later told the Journal he intends to amend the legislation, House Bill 346, and bring it back for further consideration.

For more background on the bill, click here.

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