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South Carolina GOP sets Feb. 24 date for first-in-the-South presidential primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Republicans have set Feb. 24 as the date of their 2024 presidential primary, a move that, if approved, the party says will give GOP White House hopefuls more time to campaign in the first-in-the-South state.

The state GOP executive committee voted unanimously to approve the measure on Saturday, party executive director Hope Walker told The Associated Press. The selection still needs approval from the Republican National Committee to be official, and Walker said that a formal submission will be sent ahead of an October deadline.

The move comes as both major parties make moves to solidify their voting calendars ahead of the 2024 nominating process.

The RNC voted last year to maintain its voting order, with Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada going ahead of other states. By setting South Carolina’s vote on Feb. 24, Walker told AP that candidates would have more time after Nevada votes on Feb. 6 to focus their attention on the state, where support is pivotal for Republicans competing for their party’s nomination.

“This is a great opportunity for South Carolina Republicans and for our candidates and the voters in South Carolina to get to interact one on one, not just in large masses,” Walker said.

Democrats continue to struggle with President Joe Biden’s plan to overhaul his party’s 2024 presidential primary schedule. On Friday, a Democratic National Committee rules panel gave New Hampshire until Sept. 1 to comply with new rules that leaders there fiercely oppose. But the committee opted not to immediately offer such an extension to another battleground state, Georgia, which hasn’t set its date for next year’s primary.

At issue is Biden’s plan to strip Iowa’s caucus of its traditional post leading off primary voting and replace it with South Carolina, which would vote on Feb. 3, 2024. New Hampshire has long held the nation’s first primary after Iowa’s caucus. But under the new calendar, it would vote next, together with Nevada, on Feb. 6 — a change New Hampshire officials have decried.

Republican candidates must file with the South Carolina GOP by Oct. 31 under the approved measure. The Republican party’s first debate is scheduled for Aug. 23.

The executive committee also set candidate filing fees for the presidential primary at $50,000, a figure Walker said tracks with inflation increases since 2016, when the party charged candidates $40,000. State law requires parties to pay $20,000 per candidate to the South Carolina Election Commission, which runs the state’s primaries.

In 2015, then-South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore released a study showing that the 2012 primary had boosted South Carolina’s economy by nearly $20 million. Of that, campaigns and super PACs had spent more than $11 million in ads alone, on top of overall expenditures for staffing, supplies, hotel rooms and food.

“South Carolina voters are an important part of this process, and it will also help not just with the process but with the economic boom it’ll bring to our state,” Walker said.

During Saturday’s meeting, South Carolina GOP members also approved the selection of former President Donald Trump as the speaker at the Aug. 5 Silver Elephant Gala, the party’s signature fundraiser.

Drew McKissick, South Carolina’s GOP chairman, was recently reelected to a fourth term in office. He also currently serves as national co-chairman of the RNC.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press


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