Western Governors Want 2008 Regional Primary

Several governors of Western states who want their fast-growing region to have more influence in picking presidential nominees said Monday they plan to consider a regional primary in 2008.

Gathering in New Mexico for the annual Western Governors Association (search) meeting, the governors endorsed a resolution to create a working group to develop a proposal for as early as 2008. The governors will aim at finding a common date early in the presidential nominating season.

"It's critically important that the entire West be a battleground region, not individual states," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search), who heads the association.

States would need to act within the next two years to approve changes in their laws if a Western primary or caucus is to be held for the 2008 presidential election, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (search) said.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (search) tried to organize a Western primary of eight to 10 states in 2000, but could not generate enough interest. Both Utah and Colorado held primaries on March 10, 2000, while Wyoming held party caucuses.

Traditionally, the presidential primary and caucus season begins in Iowa in January for both parties, is followed by the New Hampshire primary and continues into June even though the party nominations are locked up by then.

In a presentation to the governors, Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, recommended Iowa and New Hampshire be replaced as the initial contests. He said those states are not representative of the demographics or interests of the nation.

"Why shouldn't the fastest-growing, dynamic, ethnically diverse states of the West have a much greater voice in the election of a president than the lily-white states of Iowa and New Hampshire?" Sabato said.

Richardson and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano pointed to their states as examples of how early presidential contests pay political dividends. Arizona held its primary Feb. 3, the same day New Mexico Democrats held a presidential preference caucus. By moving up the dates of those elections, the governors said, their states received more visits from Democratic presidential candidates.