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An early presidential primary is too costly

They're at it again. The Legislature is working on another one of its unfunded mandates. This time it's an early and separate presidential primary.

The Senate passed a bill the other day that would create a presidential primary for West Virginia in the year 2004. It would be held three weeks after the New Hampshire primary. The primary election for state and local offices would be held in May as usual.

The supporters of the measure say an early presidential primary would make West Virginia a key player in the race for the nomination, just like New Hampshire.

The one big problem is the cost. All 55 counties would have to run three primaries in 2004 -- the presidential primary, the West Virginia primary and the general election in November. The added cost is estimated at around $1.4 million. That's additional money the counties will have to come up with on their own, money that could be better spent on other things, we're sure.

The only reason lawmakers want this bill is to seek national attention and to be a player in the process. We've said it before, and we'll say it again -- we have grave doubts an early presidential primary would make the rest of the nation sit up and take notice. We are a small state with precious few delegates.

Take Delaware, for instance. It too is a small state. It held a primary a short time after New Hampshire and hardly anyone noticed. We think West Virginia's presidential primary would be ignored as well.

Supporters of the measure harken back to the 1960 West Virginia primary that was so important to the Kennedy campaign. That had nothing to do with the date of the primary. It had everything to do with the issue of religion. To bring up the '60 primary is comparing apples with oranges. It was an aberration.

If it didn't cost so much, an early presidential primary in West Virginia would be fun. But it would be too much of a financial burden on the counties -- the poorer counties especially. It's a bad idea and we hope the House of Delegates rejects the bill.

Today's editorial is a reflection of the Exponent Editorial Board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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