South Carolina Republican chairman Chad Connelly just held a conference call with reporters, in which he vowed to retaliate against Florida leaders if they move their state’s primary to January 31, as it expected to occur Friday — and in violation of the official Republican calendar — by moving his own race back ahead of Florida.
Said Connelly: “Bottom line is that if Florida moves, I’m moving.”
Florida faces a penalty from the RNC of losing 50% of their allotted convention delegates, which would nominally weaken their share in deciding the nominee. However, the same penalty was imposed during the last cycle when Florida violated the calendar, and their primary proceeded as a politically important race anyway.
Notably on the call, Connelly said that he had asked RNC chair Reince Priebus whether South Carolina would also face penalties, if they move their primary into January instead of the officially sanctioned February in order to counter Florida. And Connelly said that Priebus said yes, South Carolina would also lose delegates.
“I cannot accept that,” said Connelly. “Bottom line, I talked to the chairmen of the other early states [Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada]…and we’re gonna pitch an absolute hissyfit, as my grandma would say, at the RNC meeting in January.”
During the call, Connelly also said that the RNC is working behind the scenes to try to resolve the situation with Florida. He also said that he did not blame the Florida state party itself — casting the blame with the nine-member state commission whose members were appointed by the governor, state House Speaker, and state Senate president. He also said that he had attempted to negotiate with Florida to schedule their own primaries together, with a set gap that would move in tandem with other states, in an effort to deter any other states from jumping the process.
“Here’s the thing that frustrates me the most,” Connelly also said. “The same day that this calendar passed with a two-thirds majority was the same day that the state of Florida was given the ultimate honor of hosting the Republican National Convention.”
Connelly then said how he raised his own children to behave with honor and integrity, and compared this to Florida’s behavior: “There is no integrity in collapsing this calendar like is proposed to be done. If Florida was given the honor of hosting the convention, you’d have sure though they would honor the RNC.”
Reporters asked Connelly whether he would be announcing a January date today or tomorrow morning. Connelly said that he was waiting for Florida’s decision — holding out some hope that continued maneuvering and negotiations with the state by the RNC could pan out — before he himself would act.
“Here’s what I’m not willing to do: I’m not willing to go ahead and set a date in january that signals I accept the penalties of the RNC. If Florida wants to be the bad boy, I’m gonna let them make the first move,” said Connelly, also adding: “I’m gonna make Florida force our hand. Because like I said I’m gonna have a hissyfit at the RNC meeting if they make us accept penalties that the other states force us into.”
Connelly also said that if necessary, he would schedule the state’s primary on a Saturday, three days before the Tuesday on which the Florida primary could be held.