Strong Democratic Party of Illinois bid to become early presidential primary state

“There is no better state for a Democratic presidential candidate to introduce themselves to voters than Illinois,” said the bid, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

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In the “spin room” after a New Hampshire Democratic primary debate in 2020.

In the “spin room” after a New Hampshire Democratic primary debate in 2020.

Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times photo

WASHINGTON — The Democratic Party of Illinois is making a strong pitch to the Democratic National Committee to become one of the first states to hold a presidential primary, highlighting in its bid, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, that Illinois, on a variety of fronts, is a “microcosm” of the nation.

DPI chair Rep. Robin Kelly submitted a bid to the DNC on Friday, the deadline, and if successful, the 2024 primary in Illinois will be in February.

“There is no better state for a Democratic presidential candidate to introduce themselves to voters than Illinois,” the bid said.

“Illinois’ diversity is unmatched, as the state’s population is a near-perfect microcosm of the country as a whole and the Democratic electorate. That diversity would strengthen candidates’ campaign messaging and tactics for both the primary and general elections, because winning in Illinois requires building the kinds of broad-based coalitions necessary to win the Electoral College in November,” the bid said.

WHAT’S UP: At present, the states with the first votes leading to a Democratic presidential nominee are, in this order, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Iowa and New Hampshire are not diverse.

Iowa has a convoluted in-person voting caucus system. On top of that, the Iowa Democratic Party had massive problems in tallying the 2020 results.

In 2020 and prior years, these four early votes were in February.

WHAT IS CHANGING: The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee passed an April resolution calling for a diverse nominating process that “contributes to a fair and sound electoral process” and helps Democrats win the White House. The DNC also made clear it prefers the more straightforward primary balloting.

THE COMPETITION: The DNC contemplates the first four primaries to be in four regions. Illinois is competing for the Midwest slot against bids filed by Friday from state Democratic parties in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Based on my reporting, Iowa has no chance of retaining its lead-off position.

In my analysis, it’s hard to see Oklahoma and Nebraska passing for a “Midwest” state. Swing state Michigan Democrats, pushing hard, are the main competition.

There is also the possibility of the DNC deciding to add a fifth state as a wild card and Illinois could be in the mix for that if it fails to win the regional slot.

PRITZKER, HARMON, WELCH PLEDGE: The DNC has to be convinced a state can switch primary dates, and Illinois has that one nailed.

The Illinois primary date is set by the Illinois General Assembly and is usually in mid-March. This June primary is an exception — due to late 2020 census results needed for redistricting.

The bid contains letters from Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and Gov.  J.B. Pritzker basically promising the Democratic supermajorities expected in both chambers will, as the bid said, “pass the requisite legislation.”

Even though Kelly and Pritzker have differences — he is not likely to back her for a second term as chair later this year — they are strongly united when it comes to making Illinois a presidential primary power player and, in Chicago, landing the 2024 Democratic convention.

MAJOR PLUS FACTORS: The bid emphasizes that Illinois has all the constituencies that are part of the Democratic base vote. Illinois is a strong labor state and is diverse when it comes to geography, race, ideology, even television markets — there is expensive Chicago and cheaper TV time downstate. While there are “deep-red downstate areas,” there are persuadable crossover non-Trumpist Republicans in the suburbs — and unlike some states, in Illinois, a voter does not have to declare a party in advance.

“As an open primary state, any voter can potentially be persuaded to vote in the Illinois Democratic primary, an opportunity that no candidate should pass up,” the bid said.

BLUE STATE ISSUE: The April resolution called for an early state pick to contribute to a White House win — and Illinois needed to address the issue since the Democratic nominee has won the state since 1992.

Illinois Democrats in a prebuttal said in its bid, “...there is a common misconception that Illinois is a blue state. Illinois is not a blue state — it’s a state that Illinois Democrats have turned blue through hard work and effective campaigning.

“…It is not that Republicans cannot win in Illinois — they can and have — it is that Democrats in our state routinely make sure that they do not.”

NEXT STEP: Illinois Democrats need to make the first cut and be invited to make a presentation to the Rules and Bylaws meeting June 22-24 in Washington. The committee votes in August. The full DNC will approve a new nominating calendar in September.

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