Arizona's primary date stirs commotion in GOP

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2011 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington.
File,AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a proclamation to hold Arizona's presidential primary on Feb. 28, 2012.
File,AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday signed a proclamation keeping Arizona's presidential primary on Feb. 28, letting go of an earlier threat to hold its primary sooner to make Arizona more relevant in the GOP nominating contest.

But Arizona did not delay its primary until the party-mandated date of March 6, which could lead to a domino fight over primary dates. The Republican National Committee rules only allow Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to hold contests before the March 6 "Super Tuesday," when voters in nine other states are slated to make their choices.

Officials in South Carolina have expressed their dismay about sharing the Feb. 28 primary date with Arizona. The party could sanction Arizona for its violation of the rules, and South Carolina could move its date forward, setting off the primary scramble officials hoped to avoid.

"We're not going to share our date with anybody," South Carolina Republican Party Chair Chad Connelly told Politico. "Especially, not with any state that violates the rules."

For now, the Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 6, the New Hampshire primary is scheduled on Feb. 14, and Nevada's caucuses are scheduled for Feb 18. Still, those dates are still in flux, particularly since the New Hampshire primary is in violation of the state's constitution because the Nevada caucuses are just days later. special report: Election 2012

In a statement, Brewer said that Arizona will remain relevant in the 2012 race because she has secured an agreement with the RNC to host an officially sanctioned debate later this year. The issues Arizonans care most about -- including illegal immigration, the housing crisis and Medicaid reform - have national implications, she said.

"It has always been a priority of mine to ensure that Arizona and its voters play an influential role in the nomination process, and that Southwestern issues are addressed by the candidates in a meaningful fashion," Brewer said. "I am confident both goals will be realized, given this primary date and the RNC's preliminary selection of Arizona for a GOP presidential debate."

Arizona law specifies that the state should hold its primary elections on the fourth Tuesday of February, according to the Arizona Republic. Brewer's press aide Matthew Benson told the Arizona Daily Star that Brewer is satisfied Arizona's primary will come before "Super Tuesday."