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Senate passes presidential primary

May 04, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A state senator who wants to switch Missouri to a presidential primary state said his bill is in trouble because of opposition to the April date chosen and lack of time to pass it before the legislative session ends.

"It would be like getting struck by lightening to get it passed," said Sen. Ronnie DePasco, D-Kansas City, Monday shortly after his plan cleared the Senate.

DePasco said the a full calendar of issues to be debated in the House might mean that chamber never discusses his bill, leaving it to die when the legislature adjourns 6 p.m. May 15.

"Right now, it's going on medium speed, it's not on the fast track," DePasco said about his bill.

Missourians currently chose their presidential party nominees through a series of caucuses, a system that has been criticized because of low voter participation in the caucus system.

DePasco's bill would establish a primary election, to be held the same day as municipal elections in April. But as more states move their primaries earlier in the presidential election year, the April date has drawn criticism that it would be too late in the process to make Missouri a contender in presidential primary politics.

In 1996, California moved its primary, traditionally held in June, to March 26. Political analysts say that if the 2000 primary race were still up for grabs in late March, delegate-rich California would essentially end the contest and render any state with a later primary date politically moot as a presidential player.

DePasco's bill, SB 709, passed the Senate 24-6.