Legislative leaders hope to convene a special session in September to pass a bipartisan proposal that would reschedule Connecticut’s presidential primary by moving the election forward several weeks to early April.
The bill would reschedule the date of Connecticut’s presidential primary from the last Tuesday in April to the first Tuesday of the same month. The concept was vetted during this year’s regular legislative session and passed unanimously through the House in early June only to expire on the Senate calendar due to time constraints a few days later.
House and Senate leaders said Monday they were exploring plans to meet in order to pass the bill sometime after Labor Day.
“There is broad based interest in doing that,” Senate President Martin Looney said. “Connecticut should be able to move its primary earlier in the process because we are a diverse state that really reflects the whole nation in many ways with a diverse population, areas of affluence, areas of poverty and we would be pretty representative to be in the earlier batch of primaries.”
In addition to legislative action, changing Connecticut’s presidential primary date would require input from the national political parties, which manage primary schedules along with individual states.
That means state legislators have a limited window of time to take action in order to impact next year’s primary schedule. House Speaker Matt Ritter said the time-sensitive nature of the proposal meant lawmakers could not wait until the next regular session begins next year.
“It was something that Republicans and Democrats both wanted to do and I know it had a lot of support in both the House and the Senate,” Ritter said. “That is just an example of the kind of thing where you really can’t wait until February because it would be too late to implement at that point in time.”
Given the bill’s broad support, a potential off-session debate on the proposal would likely be quick and without controversy, House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said Monday. However, Candelora said he would have preferred the Senate pass the bill last month.
“It was something that both parties supported. I wish we could have done it in the regular session rather than now spending money to go into special session,” he said.
The bill languished on the Senate calendar during the last day of the legislative session as the chamber spent hours locked in a prolonged debate over housing policy. The policy’s failure to pass prompted a rare joint statement from state Democratic Chair Nancy DiNardo and Republican Chair Ben Proto who together called it a “missed opportunity.”
On Monday, both chairs separately said they were pleased that legislative leaders were working to schedule a special session to address the issue.
“I’m really excited about that. Ben and I both testified to encourage this,” DiNardo said. “Right now, by the end of April, the decision is already made for the presidential primary. We basically already know. I think having it at the beginning of April will be really good for us.”
Proto agreed, saying that both parties felt it was “tremendously important” to move Connecticut’s primary date forward in order to make the state more relevant in the process of choosing presidential nominees.
“I’m not sure exactly where the Democrat’s process will be in regards to a primary, but the Republican primaries are going to be pretty significant events over those couple months and I think the more that Connecticut voters have a say in that process, the better it is for Connecticut,” Proto said.