Florida Politics

Florida House passes bill to move presidential primary

With Republican delegates at risk in the presidential primary, the Florida House voted Wednesday to move the primary election to the third Tuesday in March.

If the primary date isn’t moved, Florida’s 2016 primary under current law would fall on March 1, early enough that the party said it would allocate Florida’s delegates proportionally. By moving the election to the third Tuesday, which is March 15, 2016, that means whoever wins the primary will take all the state’s delegates.

In a year with two favored sons from Florida in the Republican race, the ability to put all the state’s support behind one candidate could prove significant.

“It’s a bill about Florida being relevant,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said. “That’s really what it comes down to, whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats.”

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the Republican Party of Florida chair, supported the bill, as did the rest of the House. He said Monday that he couldn’t speak for the party officially but that he supports a date change because any candidate who can win Florida will be better poised to take on the Democratic nominee.

“We are the largest, most diverse swing state,” Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said. “The person who can come into the state of Florida and win the state of Florida, really has his or her organization put together.”

Ahead of the 2012 presidential election, a similar bill was supported by Democrats in the House, a point its then-sponsor Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, was sure to point out on the floor Wednesday. Although the GOP race for 2016 seems to be more competitive than the Democrats’ at this point, Democrats in the House supported the change.

The issue now heads to the Senate, where an identical bill will be heard by the Rules Committee Thursday morning.

Herald/Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.