Illinois bid to become early Democratic primary state likely to be rejected this week

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Democrats making their pitches to voters in the 2022 New Hampshire Democratic primary. Iowa and New Hampshire had the first and second presidential votes in 2020; that may change in 2024.

Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Illinois Democrats’ bid to become one of the first states to hold presidential primary votes will likely be rejected this week by the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws panel, meeting here Thursday through Saturday, multiple sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Instead, Michigan and Minnesota are the frontrunners for the Midwest slot under a new primary system being devised by the DNC, fueled by strong Democratic wins in the November midterm elections, sources said.

Democrats in Michigan and Minnesota won control of their state legislatures and hold the governorships, impressive gains in these crucial swing states.

Though Illinois Democrats also control state government, the strikes against the state, sources said, are the expensive Chicago media market, which would make it harder for less well-funded contenders to compete and the fact that, as one of the bluest states in the nation, it is not a battleground state.

President Joe Biden said he will seek a second term and will decide for sure early next year. Giving Michigan or Minnesota an early spot would help bolster the eventual Democratic nominee with independent and swing voters in the general election. Illinois voters have backed Democratic presidential candidates for the past eight elections — since 1992.

Biden has yet to signal a preference for the new lineup of early voting states in the revamped primary system.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked at the Monday briefing if Biden will weigh in, said, “I don’t have anything else to preview or to share about any comments or statements that the president may make on this particular issue.”

Ben Hardin, Democratic Party of Illinois interim-executive director, said in a statement, “Illinois remains the best choice for an early 2024 presidential primary. Our tremendous success in the midterms and our state’s unparalleled diversity — along with our strong statewide support for unions and working families — makes it the perfect fit.”

The rules and bylaws panel is expected to send a proposed revised primary schedule to the entire DNC to vote on next year.

Background: The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee passed a resolution at its April meeting calling for a 2024 nominating calendar that reflects diversity; helps Democrats win the White House and “contributes to a fair and sound electoral process.”

The DNC is almost certain to jettison Iowa, the first-in-the nation presidential vote on the grounds the state is not diverse, is a GOP stronghold in the general election and has a highly criticized caucus voting system.

The resolution said no more than five states will be allowed to hold the first votes. The DNC also wants at least one primary in each of its four regions: south, west, northeast and Midwest. 

The rules and bylaws panel heard pitches last June from 16 states and Puerto Rico. The Illinois delegation included consultant Ron Holmes; Sen. Dick Durbin; then-Democratic Party of Illinois chair Rep. Robin Kelly; Comptroller Susan Mendoza; then-DPI Executive Director Abby Witt; and then-DPI Deputy Director Jake Lewis.

During the June questioning, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, Randi Weingarten, who is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, pressed the Illinois Democrats on whether local Chicago City Hall politics would “get played out in the national campaign,” a reference to the Chicago Teachers Union’s battles with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “How do you ensure that is about the presidential election, as opposed to all these other issues” she asked, with her questions suggesting she was not a supporter of the Illinois bid. Since then, Weingarten’s AFT has pledged $1 million to help CTU organizer —and Cook County Board member — Brandon Johnson’s campaign for mayor.

In 2020, Iowa voted on Feb. 3; New Hampshire on Feb. 11; followed by Nevada on Feb. 22; and South Carolina on Feb. 29. All those states have had to reapply.

The only Illinois member on the Rules and Bylaws Committee is Iris Martinez, the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County. She told the Sun-Times on Monday, “I’m always going to vote for Illinois.”

Convention bid: The possible defeat on the primary front will not have an impact on the pending bid Chicago has before the DNC to host the Democratic National Convention in 2024, with the city competing with New York, Atlanta and Houston.

From left, Consultant Ron Holmes; Sen. Dick Durbin; then-Democratic Party of Illinois chair Rep. Robin Kelly; Comptroller Susan Mendoza; then-DPI Executive Director Abby Witt; then-DPI Deputy Director Jake Lewis.

Screen grab DNC June Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting.

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November 28, 2022 at 10:49PM

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