Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman hoped at least six states would join in a 2008 regional presidential primary, but now it's looking more like three or four states may participate.
Huntsman and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called for Western states to hold presidential primary elections on the same day to give the region more influence.
They want it to be early enough in February that the nominations of both national parties still will be up for grabs. That could be after the nation's first primary in New Hampshire but before Super Tuesday, when a number of states hold elections.
Huntsman and Richardson hoped at least Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming would join Utah and New Mexico in the primary.
"If we could get four states -- even three -- it's certainly worth doing. If we get four, that's a nice, round number and would be representative of this region," Huntsman told the Deseret Morning News.
He said he is counting on Arizona to participate, but he has given up on Colorado and Wyoming.
As for the fourth state, he said, "It could be Nevada. It could be Idaho. It could be Montana."
Richardson's deputy chief of staff, Billy Sparks, said the regional primary would still be a success even with only three states. "Every state makes their own decisions," he said. "The goal is to have as many states that want to participate."
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt pushed for a regional primary in 2000, but only Utah, Colorado and Wyoming Republicans participated, and the election ended up being held after Super Tuesday had decided the national party candidates.
Utah lawmakers refused to fund a primary in 2004, because President Bush did not face an opponent. The state's Democrats organized and funded their own statewide presidential preference primary.
The difficulty in selling states on the regional primary is both the cost and the potential penalty from the national parties for holding the election early.
The political parties want states to hold elections between mid-February and early June. States that do not comply may not be able to send as many delegates to the national party conventions.
"I am very concerned about that," Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said.
Holland said his party has not decided whether to support the proposed primary. But he said the idea is interesting.
"I think it would be a great opportunity for Utahns to get an idea what our national issues are," he said.
Holland and GOP state Chairman Joe Cannon said they believed the primary would be an economic boost to the state.
"It's a very cheap price to pay for the kind of publicity you'd get," Cannon said.
"When you're a bunch of red (Republican-leaning) states in the West, there's not a reason to have significant attention paid to you," Cannon said. An early, multiple-state primary is a reason for candidates to visit.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)