RALEIGH – It is official. With Gov. Pat McCrory’s signing of House Bill 373 on Wednesday evening, the state’s presidential primary is combined with the general primary and will be held March 15, 2016. The primary had been set to occur in February, following South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary, but that date ran afoul of national party rules. The March 15 date is two weeks after “Super Tuesday” on the primary calendar and on the same day as the Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio primaries.
In 2013, the legislature voted to move the state’s primary day from May to just after South Carolina’s. Proponents of the earlier date wanted to ensure that North Carolina would share in the national spotlight that accompanies an early primary. With the May date, the nominee is generally known by the time North Carolina Republicans vote.
But a February primary would have incurred severe penalties from the national parties; the state’s voting delegates to the Republican National Convention would have been slashed from 72 to just 12 representatives. Democratic delegates would probably have been given an exemption from Democratic Party rules since they were not pushing the move and could not stop it.
In April the N.C. House voted to move it back on the primary calendar, but the Senate did not act until July. The bill then became a part of the horse-trading that came with a legislative stalemate over the state budget and other items. It then reemerged in the final weeks of session with an unrelated provision dealing with campaign finance added to it that almost sunk the bill. McCrory and General Assembly leaders agreed to amend the campaign finance portion in the waning hours of the session via another bill, one that did not pass until after 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.