Topeka Kansas Republicans have set their presidential caucuses for the Saturday after Super Tuesday in March, unwilling to risk the potential loss of national convention delegates even as the calendar for deciding the GOP nominee remains in flux.
Clay Barker, the Kansas GOP’s executive director, said Wednesday that party officials hope the race remains undecided by the March 10 caucuses so that the state has some influence in picking the nominee. Republicans in about 10 states are expected to have Super Tuesday primaries or caucuses on March 6.
“Hopefully, it will bring some candidates here to do some campaigning,” Barker said.
Democrats in Kansas are waiting until April 14, also a Saturday, to have their presidential caucuses. They were encouraged to set the later date by a promise from the national party of extra convention delegates, with President Barack Obama’s nomination as the Democratic candidate considered certain.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback last week endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the GOP presidential nomination. Perry has emerged as the leading GOP candidate, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney his main rival in a crowded field that also includes U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas.
The Kansas GOP’s executive committee plans to meet Friday to consider minor changes in its plan and rules for the caucuses, but Barker said party leaders remain committed to the March 10 date because of the Republican National Committee’s threat to strip most states of half their delegates if they have primaries or caucuses before March 6. States have until Saturday to submit their plans to the RNC.
Despite the RNC’s threat, several states are still considering primaries or caucuses in February or even January, including Florida.
“It’s not worth the risk, and both parties are doing the right thing in discouraging states from going earlier,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former state GOP chairman.
Kobach said discouraging early primaries and caucuses is “good for the country” because otherwise, states would move their contests earlier and earlier, drawing out the presidential race, leading to voter fatigue.
The parties’ rules don’t apply to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, whose contests traditionally have opened the presidential race. Barker said Kansas could have set its caucuses for Super Tuesday as well, but GOP leaders face staffing dozens of caucus sites around the state.
“We wanted to do it as soon as possible,” Barker said. “There’s just no way we could get enough volunteers.”
Kansas has 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Three, who serve on the national committee, will be pledged to support the candidate receiving the most votes statewide in the caucuses. Three delegates from each of the state’s four congressional districts will be pledged to the leading vote-getter in their districts. The remaining 25 delegates will be divided proportionally among the presidential candidates.
GOP candidates have will have until Jan. 13 to enter the Kansas caucuses.
The Democratic caucuses will allocate the state’s convention delegates proportionally among the candidates, though Obama is expected to capture them all. The state now has 44 delegates to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., but expects to see the number jump to 55 because Kansas is waiting to hold its caucuses.
The candidate filing deadline for Kansas Democrats’ caucuses is April 1.
In 2008, Kansas Republicans also had their caucuses the Saturday after Super Tuesday, but that was Feb. 9. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee captured 36 of the state’s 39 delegates, even though Arizona Sen. John McCain was then the party’s presumed nominee. About 20,000 people participated.
Kansas Democrats had their 2008 caucuses on Super Tuesday and, despite wintry weather, about 37,000 people participated, more than three times as many as party leaders had anticipated. Obama, who had been endorsed by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, won easily, capturing 23 of the 32 delegates at stake.