South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has informed the Republican Party that her state government will not fund the party primary next February, according to an Associated Press report. This leaves the state party on the hook for an estimated $1.5 million in costs, which is about ten times the amount of cash they currently have on hand.
This is not a new position for Haley, as she wrote to the South Carolina legislature back in March that “Political parties have sufficient fundraising ability to offset the costs of partisan presidential preference primaries, and in a budget year like this one, it is my ask that we do not dedicate taxpayer dollars to something I believe does not rise to the level of a core function of government.” She wanted to ax the primary funding as part of a proposed $25 million in spending cuts.
The primary funding cut is not an earth-shaking, unprecedented event, as South Carolina has only provided state funding since 2008, when both parties held primaries in the state. According to the AP, the individual parties handled the process with “paper ballots and volunteers” before that.
The state Republican Party is confident it can come up with the money it needs. There’s about $680,000 left over from last year’s elections they might be able to use, pending a decision from the state attorney general, and assuming Haley doesn’t veto the request. They should get about $400,000 in filing fees from the candidates. Reuters quotes South Carolina GOP executive director Matt Moore’s assurances that “we’re going to raise the money.”
Moore also noted that South Carolina’s Republican primary draws a lot of national attention, as the winner has gone on to be the Republican Party nominee in every race since 1980. Those who wanted state funding felt it would be helpful “to ensure the election is fair and unbiased,” as Moore put it. He says he respects “the governor’s prerogative” in withdrawing state funding this year.
It seems to me that Haley has the better of this argument. If South Carolina wants to trim its budget, cutting a million-dollar expenditure that only began during the last election sounds reasonable. It provides a bit of an advantage to the party that doesn’t have to hold a primary, when an incumbent is running for re-election, but democracy nevertheless survived up until 2008.
It would have been quite a story if a Republican governor cut that subsidy while the Democrats were trying to hold a primary, but since it only goes to show the strength of Nikki Haley’s budget-cutting convictions, and the state GOP will surely find a way to hold its primary, the media will soon lose interest.