If you’re looking for Kentucky to become a player in presidential primary elections, it ain’t gonna happen.
That’s because Kentucky’s primary elections come so late in the cycle.
This year, the Republican and Democratic primaries take place on May 19 — only Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands come later.
That means, by the time the Bernie and Joe show gets to Kentucky, the nomination will likely be sewn up on the Democratic side. And Donald Trump is facing only token opposition in the GOP primary.
Well, why not move the Kentucky primaries to April? Or even better, March? Or February?
2020 primary elections: What the Democratic primary electorate is telling us
Why do Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina get to have all the fun?
We’ll get to that. But first, a little history.
In 1988, the southern states worked together to hold the first real Super Tuesday. Kentucky was one of 20 states that moved its presidential primaries to March 8 of that year to give the South clout.
But it didn’t quite turn out as Kentucky had hoped.
The candidates paid little attention to Kentucky as they spent much of their time in larger states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, where the delegate haul was much larger.
The fact that then-Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee was the clear favorite here didn’t encourage other candidates to waste time and effort fighting for scraps in a small state.
And with no local races on the ballot — the local primaries were still scheduled in late May — voters showed as little interest in the primary here as the candidates. Only 22% of them showed up.
In 1990, the Kentucky General Assembly decided not to take part in Super Tuesday again, saying the $3 million spent on the first Super Tuesday was better spent elsewhere. (Each election now costs $9 million to $10 million, said Miranda Combs, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Michael Adams.)
So, why not move Kentucky’s primaries for all offices earlier in the year so we can take part in a meaningful presidential primary without additional cost to taxpayers?
That’s because state House and Senate elections occur in even-numbered years — the same as the 60-day legislative sessions that keep lawmakers in Frankfort until mid-April.
Legislators certainly aren’t going to schedule primaries when they’re going to be tied up at the Capitol and unable to campaign in the days and weeks leading up to the elections. And constitutional requirements don’t allow the legislature to take breaks in the middle of the sessions so lawmakers can go home and campaign.
So, if you want a say in who will be your party’s nominee for president, you can hope for a tight race that is still hanging fire until late spring or you can move to Iowa. I hope you like corn and loose meat sandwiches.