Primary Date Could Change

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A bill making Alabama a key player in selecting candidates for president in 2008 is still alive going into the final day of the Legislature's regular session in Montgomery.

The proposed legislation would move Alabama's presidential primary from June to the first Saturday after the New Hampshire primary.

That would make Alabama the third state in the country, and the first in the South, to take part in the process of choosing Republican and Democratic presidential nominees. But the distinction might be short lived.

In the last two presidential elections, the South Carolina primaries have been first in the South, being held on a Saturday about two and a half weeks after the New Hampshire primary. A Republican Party official in South Carolina says the Palmetto State won't let Alabama slip in front.

Jay Ragley, political director of the South Carolina Republican Party, says South Carolina will maintain its status as first in the South primary. If Alabama moves its primary, he says, "We will move ours earlier."

He said in South Carolina, the parties and not the Legislature determine the dates of the presidential preference primary.

Supporters of the Alabama bill say it would give Alabama voters more of a role in choosing the next president and would lure candidates and national media coverage to the state.

The bill to change the date passed the House by a 52 to 40 margin, with opponents arguing that the state can't afford the price tag, about $3 million, to open precincts and run election operations for an extra primary.

The measure also cleared a Senate panel and could come up for final passage in the Senate on May 16, the final day of the session.

It originally was supported by both major parties in Alabama, but Republican Party chairwoman Twinkle Cavanaugh says the state could lose delegates to the national convention if it bumped up its primary date. She quotes the Republican National Committee saying if Alabama moves the primary, the state may lose delegates.