ATLANTA — Secretary of State Brian Kemp will announce that Georgia will hold its presidential primary on Super Tuesday, officials at the state Capitol have told The Associated Press.
The two people who are familiar with the decision said Kemp informed the state’s top elected officials on Wednesday that he has decided on March 6. The officials asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to pre-empt the announcement expected Thursday.
State lawmakers gave Kemp until Dec. 1 to set Georgia’s primary day. But the Republican National Party has asked states to submit their primary dates by Saturday.
Republican National Committee rules forbid any state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding a primary before March 6. States that violate RNC rules are subject to losing half their delegates to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida, next August.
Already, Missouri has set its date for Feb. 7, and Arizona and Michigan have set presidential primaries for Feb. 28. A special committee is scheduled to meet Friday to formally select Florida’s date, which the state’s house speaker has said will likely be Jan. 31.
Among the other states that have scheduled their primary for Super Tuesday are Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas.
University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bulloch said Georgia probably made a good decision that keeps it from paying the price in delegates while allowing it to weigh in while there’s still a race.
“Most of the other states scheduled are all smaller than Georgia,” Bulloch said. “Georgia will have more delegates up for grabs ... making the state attractive to candidates who will then perhaps visit the state personally, or if not, send their top surrogates.”
Bulloch added that the lure of delegates could also bring additional media attention to the state, giving Georgia prominent mention in news stories in the days and weeks leading up to the primary and in the election recap.
An early primary would mean a ballot with a greater number of candidates still competing and a greater opportunity to determine the outcome of the Republican nomination.
New Republican delegate selection rules do not allow winner-take-all primaries — the way Georgia’s has traditionally operated. The Super Tuesday scenario means Georgia would allocate its delegates proportionally.
Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart said this week that having an early primary would make Georgia a bigger player in 2012. She added that she did not want to see the state lose delegates by going before March.
“Since we became a red state, they haven’t paid much attention to us,” Everhart said, referring to GOP candidates and the RNC. “They use us as a donor state.”