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Democratic National Committee to weigh early Minnesota presidential primary this week

Minnesota’s 2024 presidential primary is scheduled to take place on March 5, but that could change after a key body of the Democratic National Committee meets in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday. A decision could come as early as this summer, but Minnesota Republicans would have to agree to a change.

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Sam Eberhart, right, signs the voter roll as his daughter, Bridey, 3, leans against him at during the 2018 Minnesota primary election at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Paul on Tuesday, Aug.14, 2018. Helping Eberhart is election volunteer Simon Carvalho.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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ST. PAUL — The Democratic Party has chosen Minnesota as a finalist to host an early presidential primary as party leadership reassesses which states hold the early electoral contests that can end up shaping the major parties’ nominees for the nation’s highest office.

Seventeen state Democratic parties are advocating for the change with the Democratic National Committee as many begin to question whether primarily white, rural states such as Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to kick off the primary season as the country becomes more demographically diverse.

Minnesota’s next presidential primary is scheduled to take place on March 5, 2024, but that could change after a key body of the DNC is set to meet in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday, June 22 and 23, to take up the issue. A decision could come as soon as this August, according to Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin, who sits on the DNC committee tasked with assessing which states should have primaries first.

Minnesota’s 2020 presidential primary was on March 3, a date shared with 14 other states. Iowa historically begins the process with its caucuses in late January or early February, and is followed by primaries in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Martin said Minnesota is a strong candidate to kick off the primaries, in part due to its high rate of civic engagement and volunteerism.

“We have the highest rate of voter turnout in the nation year in and year out and over the last 20 years since 2000 we’ve led the nation in every presidential election cycle,” Martin said. “We also have some of the highest turnout of communities, Black, Indigenous, people of color communities.”

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Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin

Martin said Minnesota’s breakdown of rural and urban populations sits in the middle of national statistics and could also push candidates to conduct more expansive campaigns in the state’s primary and reach broader demographics.

“It’s important for presidential candidates to not just campaign in the metro areas of each state but also to get out to small towns and population centers in rural parts of the states,” he said. “And in Minnesota with the way we still have a big percentage of the vote share coming from Greater Minnesota, it’s going to force candidates to get outside of the Twin Cities and the metro area and campaign throughout the state.”

It’s important for presidential candidates to not just campaign in the metro areas of each state but also to get out to small towns and population centers in rural parts of the states ... it’s going to force candidates to get outside of the Twin Cities and the metro area and campaign throughout the state.
Ken Martin, DFL party chair

The DFL along with 19 other Democratic party organizations this spring started to push for the change with the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee and had to submit formal applications by early June. Soon after, the national party committee ruled out Nebraska, New York and an organization representing Democrats living outside the U.S., leaving 17 others in the process.

Minnesota faces strong competing Midwestern states such as Michigan, Martin said. But should the DNC select Minnesota as one of the states to have an earlier primary, what’s the next step? Minnesota has one of the simpler paths forward, said Martin, who explained that the DFL only needs to get agreement from the state's Republican Party. Some other states must have their legislatures approve a change to the primary date.

Martin said he has had conversations with Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman David Hann, who has not expressed strong approval or disapproval for moving the primary forward, and will have to consider the potential impact on Republican interests before making a decision. Minnesota Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forum News Service.

Besides the DFL and GOP, Minnesota has two other major political parties as defined by state law: the Legal Marijuana Now Party and Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party. Since neither historically fields presidential candidates who are nominated at a national party convention, the DFL and GOP will be able to move forward with an earlier presidential primary on their own, Martin said.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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