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Nevada Moves To Go First In Presidential Nominating Process And Bump Iowa, New Hampshire

John Pemble
The Nevada bill also calls for the state to change its contest from a caucus to a primary.

The Nevada Legislature passed legislation this week that would move it ahead in line to go before Iowa and New Hampshire in the presidential nominating calendar. The chairs of the Iowa Republican and Democratic parties are united in keeping Iowa first, and a caucus state.

The Nevada bill also calls for the state to change its contest from a caucus to a primary. If Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signs the legislation, Nevada would jump ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. Proponents of the bill say Nevada would be a better first state because its more diverse and better represents the country.

“We’re accustomed to other states trying to come forward [and] to jump ahead in the presidential nominating calendar," said Iowa Democratic Party chair Ross Wilburn. "We’re having important conversations with the DNC and my team’s working hard to make sure that Iowans continue to have a voice during this important process.”

Wilburn, a Democratic representative who represents Ames, was elected earlier this year to be the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. He says he has talked with Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, of South Carolina, who has told him it wouldn't be until the fall when conversations about the calendar would come up.

Last year’s caucus debacle on the Democratic side has reignited long-standing complaints about Iowa’s status. Former U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid and other Nevada Democrats want to replace their party-run caucuses with state-run primary elections, which are more accessible for people to participate in than in-person caucuses which can take a long time to complete.

Nevada’s plan would have to get support from the national parties to make a change.

Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann says he and his counterparts in the other three early states are committed to the current calendar.

“Is it concerning? Yes. Expected? Yes," Kaufmann, who became party chair in 2014, said. "Is it going to change one tiny bit my calculus for this state? The answer is an emphatic no.”

Many potential Republican presidential candidates have already made trips or are planning visits to Iowa this year, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Political News VotingIowa Politics
Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.