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Nevada GOP moves up caucus date -- again

State party officials will risk delegates to follow Democrats in holding a presidential nominating contest on Jan. 19.

March 24, 2007|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Nevada Republicans agreed Friday afternoon to move the state's GOP caucuses to Jan. 19, joining Democrats in deciding to vote second in the nation on the 2008 presidential candidates.

The agreement came in a conference call among about 15 members of the state Republican Party's executive committee, and in defiance of a Republican National Committee rule that bars states from selecting presidential delegates before Feb. 5. It will require a change in state law.

"The consensus is we're moving everything to the 19th, and we'll put it to a [formal] vote on April 4," said George Harris, the state party's acting finance chairman. "Only two people were against it

The move is aimed at giving Nevada a higher profile in the primary and caucus cycle, party officials said.

It's the second date shift this month. The Republicans agreed two weeks ago to move the caucuses from April to Feb. 7, two days after the Super Tuesday primary involving voters in at least 20 states, including California and New York.

But rank-and-file Nevada Republicans complained that Feb. 7 was still too late, and an online petition by activist Chuck Muth and a flood of phone calls to party officials led the executive committee to move the date again, party officials said.

"Feb. 7 is a meaningless date for us," Muth said. "The Democrats opened up these floodgates, and we're just kind of stuck."

If the change is approved, Nevada's Republicans will join Nevada Democrats in choosing delegates five days after Iowa's Jan. 14 caucuses and three days before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 22.

Under Republican National Committee rules, states that hold nominating votes before Feb. 5 forfeit half of their delegate seats at the national nominating convention. That penalty wouldn't be exacted until after the states formally reported primary or caucus dates to the committee by Sept. 4, said committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

But with Iowa, New Hampshire, Wyoming and the District of Columbia already planning to vote before Feb. 5, and South Carolina and Florida contemplating moving up their primaries, Nevada Republicans are gambling that the national committee will suspend its rules.

If not, they said, it is worth the cost to select half a delegation at a time when it matters.

"Our responsibility is to the Republicans in the state of Nevada," Harris said before the conference call. "What happens at the national convention is all pomp and circumstance. Us being a live caucus on Jan. 19 makes us a big player."

Harris said the change was necessary to counter a Democratic buildup in the state. "There's a large concern that the state might go blue. They've been on the ground since last fall, and the unions have just dropped anchor in Las Vegas. We have got to do something to counteract them."

scott.martelle@latimes.com

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