Decision on early Minnesota presidential primary could come this week

DFL Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and incoming Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee this week pledging to pass legislation to move the primary to an earlier date if national leadership picks the state.

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Sam Eberhart, right, signs the voter roll as his daughter, Bridey, 3, leans against him during the 2018 Minnesota primary election at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Paul on Aug. 14, 2018.
John Autey / File / Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota could soon know whether it will be among the first states to hold presidential primaries starting in 2024.

A key panel of the Democratic National Committee is meeting Thursday to decide which states it will choose to hold the early electoral contests that can end up shaping the major party nominees for the nation’s highest office. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee in June picked Minnesota and 16 other states as finalists.

In their pitch to the national party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has presented Minnesota as “Democracy’s North Star,” highlighting the state’s high voter participation, civic engagement, a concentration of rural Democratic voters, growing ethnic diversity and strong LGBT community.

“While nothing is certain yet, I believe Minnesota's high voter turnout and strong tradition of civic engagement makes us a top contender to be one of those four early states,” DFL chairman Ken Martin said in a news release. “Plus, presidential primary candidates who can win Minnesota will be well-positioned to win their general elections, too.

"After all, to be successful in Minnesota, candidates need to win over voters in urban, suburban, and rural communities, and they will need to appeal to an electorate that is rapidly diversifying.”


DFL Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and incoming Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic sent a letter to the DNC this November pledging to pass legislation to move Minnesota’s primary to an earlier date if national leadership picks the state.

“Minnesota offers a reflective snapshot of America and serves as the most suitable landscape for presidential candidates to compete,” they wrote. “As one of the fastest-growing Midwest states, Minnesota is a highly representative approximation of the country, paired with a robust state and local party infrastructure, an engaged electorate, and a logistical and financial advantage for campaigns.”

Of the states vying for the four early primary spots, Michigan, another diverse Upper Midwest state, is seen as Minnesota’s strongest competitor.

Minnesota’s 2020 presidential primary was March 3, a date shared with 14 other states. Iowa historically begins the process with its caucuses in late January or early February and is followed by primaries in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Minnesota’s next presidential primary is currently scheduled to take place March 5, 2024.

The Republican National Committee earlier this year voted to keep its current primary schedule. Minnesota Republican Party Chairman David Hann has not expressed strong approval or disapproval for moving the primary forward. Other Republicans, such as former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, have backed an early primary.

Under the current law, both the DFL and Minnesota Republican Party chairs must agree to move the primary forward. But now that the DFL has complete control of state government, it could move to change that law and circumvent the Republicans.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws committee convenes Thursday and is scheduled to conclude its business by Saturday. A decision was originally expected this summer.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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