GOP chair criticizes Florida, will wait to announce primary date

Chad Connelly addresses the media Thursday.
Chad Connelly addresses the media Thursday.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An anticipated announcement of South Carolina's tentative primary election date didn't happen Thursday morning as SCGOP leaders condemned Florida GOP officials for seeking to break Republican rules and hold an early primary.

In a joint statement with the three other states that traditionally hold the first Republican primaries of the presidential election cycle, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly said the group will force Florida to act first before announcing their primary dates.

Florida's House Speaker said Wednesday said that January 31 was the likely date for the Florida primary.

"Our four states are committed to protecting the integrity of the 2012 nominating process and we refuse to let rogue states dictate the calendar," said Connelly. "Elections held just after New Year hurt voters and candidates by short circuiting the nominating process. Republicans deserve the chance to get to know every candidate."

Florida's House Speaker Dean Cannon said scheduling the primary for the last day of January would make it a major player in deciding the GOP nominee without jumping in front of those four states. He said Florida's hand was forced by other states that have moved up their dates, including Missouri, which has set its primary for Feb. 7.

Florida's tentative date could change if states other than the first four try to jump or match Florida, Cannon said.

A date earlier than March 6 for all but the four traditional states would violate Republican Party rules. A Republican National Committee vote last year allowed those four to vote in February.

Connelly has vowed that South Carolina will hold the first primary in the South.

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.