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Senators Want Nomination Changes

October 26, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two senators from different political parties and opposite ends of the nation introduced legislation Tuesday that would require presidential nominees to be picked by region in 2004, rather than the current selection process led by New Hampshire and Iowa.

The sponsors, Sens. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., acknowledged, however, that the four senators from those first-in-the nation states would filibuster their bill to death.

``I understand the local interest″ among New Hampshire and Iowa lawmakers in killing the bill, Lieberman told reporters. ``But overall, this system is not serving the country well.″

The bill is the latest shot in a fight over the nomination schedule, which next year is set so that roughly 75 percent of the delegates will be picked by March 7. Both parties are almost certain to have a nominee within six weeks of Iowa’s opening test. Critics say the system gives the first states too much influence over the process, and puts undue pressure on candidates to race around the country.

The system, Gorton said, has become ``an absurd rush to judgment″ that does not resemble the vision the nation’s founders had of considered nominee selection.

``Small and large states with later primaries are shut out of the selection process,″ Gorton said.

The bill is identical to the one he and Lieberman introduced in 1996, but the Senate never acted on it. Its prospects this year are just as bleak, they conceded.

Gorton and Lieberman propose that the first Tuesdays in March, April, May and June be primary election dates for specific regions of the country _ similar to having a ``Super Tuesday″ for each area, the sponsors said. The four regions would consist of 12 or 13 states, divided into West, Midwest, South and Northeast. The national parties would assign territories, such as Guam and Puerto Rico, to one of the four regions.

Each state would determine how its delegates would be picked, selecting either a winner-takes-all method of representation at the national convention, or a proportional plan. Each state also would decide whether to hold caucuses or primaries.

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