Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mauro Testifies On Senate Leapfrog Bill

Mauro Testifies On Senate Leapfrog Bill

Iowa Secretary of State Mike Mauro testified in Washington Wednesday on a Senate bill that would end the frontloading and leapfrog competition between states seeking early presidential nominating contests.

S1905, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Lamar! Alexander, R-Tenn., and Joe Lieberman, Former Democrat-Conn., would create four regional primaries in early March, April, May and June of 2012. The order would be determined by lot and then rotated in future cycles.  The bill exempts Iowa and New Hampshire, who would remain first.

"Iowa and New Hampshire do an excellent job in vetting candidates," Mauro said in prepared remarks before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. "Iowa and New Hampshire voters display an uncommon command of issues, a sophistication about the contest and its candidates, and an understanding of history and eagerness to participate, that clearly sets them apart," he added in a textbook defense of the caucuses.

Experts and senators agreed something needs to happen before 2012.  "The Presidential nominating process is too important to our democracy to allow the pell-mell scramble to continue," said committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has cosponsored the bill.  "I believe this bill would resolve the most difficult and pressing problems without adversely affecting any of the national parties, states or territories, or the voters."

However, there seems to be little consensus on what exactly should be done.  Ranking minority member Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said a constitutional amendment may be needed.  And Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, opposes a regional system, saying large states would dominate the regions and have too much influence.

Sponsor Lieberman opposed part of his own bill.  When Lieberman ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 (back when he called himself a Democrat), he adopted an unsuccessful Screw Iowa strategy and skipped the caucuses.  Today he again had a Screw Iowa stance, opposing the Iowa-New Hampshire exemptions.  "I am concerned these two states will continue to have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of the nominating process," he said.

A rival bill by Rep. Sander Levin of leapfrog state Michigan would also set up regional primaries, but would not have exceptions for Iowa and New Hampshire.  Michigan Democrats, most prominently Rep. Levin's brother Sen. Carl Levin, have openly and frequently said their goal is to end Iowa and New Hampshire's early state status.

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