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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 19, 201112:00 PM EST

Presidential primary committee named


Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders announced the nine members of a committee that will select the state’s presidential primary date, bringing Florida closer to what seems like an inevitable confrontation with the national political parties.

Scott’s choices were former Gov. Bob Martinez; Jenn Ungru, Scott’s deputy chief of staff who oversees the Department of State; and former state Sen. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee).

Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Merritt Island) tapped Sens. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) and Gary Siplin (D-Orlando).

House Speaker Dean Cannon appointed House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R-Miami) and Reps. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) and Cynthia Stafford (D-Miami).

The committee’s first meeting will be Sept. 23, with a second meeting scheduled for Sept. 30, if necessary. State law requires the date to be set by Oct. 1.

The appointments were made without comments, but Scott and legislative leaders have said that Florida’s primary should be held early enough to play a key role in the process.

Lawmakers have floated the possibility of going fifth, after traditional early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

With President Barack Obama virtually assured renomination by the Democratic Party, most of the focus has been on Florida’s potential to break a tie if the two GOP front-runners split the traditional four early states, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry favored in Iowa and South Carolina while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to show strength in New Hampshire and Nevada.

Florida’s primary date was originally set for Jan. 31, but that would have put Florida’s nominating contest earlier than any other and will almost certainly be changed.

At the same time, other states have started moving up their dates, with Arizona recently shuffling its primary to Feb. 28, a date set aside for South Carolina, and Michigan considering a similar move.

South Carolina officials have promised to retaliate by moving up its date, potentially causing a chaotic reordering of the primary calendar.

For their part, Democratic leaders in Florida have called on Republicans to fall in line with the rules set by the national parties, which bar any state outside of the first four states from voting before March 6.

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