Maryland doesn’t make the cut for Democrats’ new early presidential primary states

Published on: December 02, 2022 12:09 PM EST|Updated on: December 05, 2022 9:37 AM EST

7/7/22—Voting booths inside Annapolis Middle School on the first day of early voting in Maryland’s Primary Election.
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Maryland will not move to the front of the presidential primary calendar after all.

A key committee within the Democratic National Committee was holding meetings in Washington, D.C., on Friday and Saturday to consider a new kickoff order for presidential primaries: South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and Michigan.

Iowa, with its confusing caucus system, is proposed to be bumped from the early calendar. And Maryland did not make the cut.

The new series of early state primaries follows a recommendation that President Joe Biden, a Democrat, made to party leaders ahead of the vote.

The Maryland Democratic Party made a push to join the early calendar, with officials arguing that the state’s diversity and the party’s dominance in the state would make it an ideal proving ground for presidential hopefuls. More than half of the state’s population is not white, according to 2020 Census data.

Plus, with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and Gov.-elect Wes Moore about to take office, it would be easy for the state’s law to be changed to pick a new, earlier primary date, state party officials argued.

Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said she was disappointed that Maryland wasn’t picked, but urged fellow Democrats to support Biden’s plan.

“I would say to the president of the United States that Maryland has your back. We are 100% on board with supporting what the president of the United States wants,” Lewis said Friday during a meeting of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

The new lineup of early primary states represents a chance to make history, Lewis said.

“It is truly historic and it is a change. ... Making history feels real good,” she said.

The Maryland Democratic Party put out a statement Friday afternoon saying the party is “confident” that the state can be a national leader within the party, despite not winning an early primary slot. “Our progress and success here is gaining our state more recognition nationally and we’re proud of the opportunity to be a finalist in this discussion,” the statement read.

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Maryland’s presidential primary in 2024 is currently scheduled for the fourth Tuesday in April.

Yvette Lewis, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, makes a pitch to the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee about why the state should host an early primary election in 2024.

The national Democratic Party has become concerned that the early states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, which are largely white, don’t reflect the diversity of the country or the party.

In a letter to the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, Biden expressed those same concerns.

“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden wrote to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Biden also wrote that the Iowa caucuses are problematic because they are time-consuming and require people to show up in person and declare their choice of candidate publicly. Biden called caucuses “inherently anti-participatory” and said caucuses should no longer be part of the nominating process.

The president also suggested that the Democratic National Committee review the primary calendar every four years “to ensure that it continues to reflect the values and diversity of our party and our country.”

The two earliest states on the current calendar — Iowa with its caucuses, followed by New Hampshire with a primary — signaled disappointment with the decision. And officials from both states noted their state laws require early-season placement for presidential nominations.

“Small rural states like Iowa must have a voice” in the the presidential nominating process, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn wrote in a statement. Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest, he said, without doing significant damage to the party for a generation.

Wilburn said the Iowa caucuses going forward would be a “simplified vote-by-mail process” that will make it easier for voters to participate.

In New Hampshire, where the early primary is a revered and beloved tradition, Democrats already are gearing up for a fight against being bumped from having the first primary, which in the past was held shortly after the Iowa caucuses.

New Hampshire’s Democratic Party chair, Ray Buckley, wrote in a statement that New Hampshire law requires the state to have the first presidential primary in the nation. The law says the presidential primary must be held at least seven days before any other state’s primary.

“The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away. ... We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this,” Buckley said in the statement.