Time to Do Away with Primary Elections, Adopt Party Caucus System

I was reading a recent Statehouse News article (sorry, can’t re-print here; big no-no) about how many local communities are asking the state to allow them to not have local “Preliminary Elections” this October.

For those of you not familiar, a preliminary election is akin to a primary in that it is designed to narrow a field of candidates down to only two candidates per office.

So if there were three candidates for a single seat on say a City Council, they would have a Preliminary Election, and the top two vote getters would advance to the November General Election.

In my hometown of Marlborough yesterday was the last day to submit papers to run in our November municipal election.  According to the Metrowest Daily News, nine candidates have submitted signatures to run this year for four at-large City Council seats, necessitating a Preliminary Election.

So, how much does that cost?  I called the City Clerks office and asked.  The cost to the City to have a Preliminary Election to narrow a field from nine to eight candidates will be over $30,000!

Now, it’s to late to change that for Marlborough, but this got me to thinking.  As I have argued before, I am not a fan of Party Primaries as held in Massachusetts.

After seeing the cost of having a similar preliminary election to my home city, I think it is time we save Cities and Towns Millions each year and do away with Party Primaries, and adopt a Party Caucus system.


Besides what I hope is the obvious financial benefit of doing away with a primary election to choose party nominees, allow me to point out the benefits of a caucus.

1.) Unlike primaries, in which many non-registered Republicans can vote, a party caucus is limited to only Registered Republicans.  For a change, actual Republicans will choose Republican Party Nominees.  There will be no reverse “Operation Chaos” for the GOP.

2.) Party caucuses require active and engaged RTC’s.  The state party, as a necessity, will need to have RTC’s up and running, if for no other reason than to organize a Party Caucus.  Active RTC’s keep Democrats on their toes, and will help elect more Republicans.

3.) It will get people involved.  People who take the time to spend an hour sitting in a room for a party caucus are folks who are going to be interested in joining an RTC.  Active and Activated Republicans win elections.

4.) It will make campaigns, especially out of state campaigns, invest in building a network in Massachusetts which can later be leveraged to win elections both in November and beyond.

5.) It is already being used on the local level.  For example, the Towns of Hopkinton and Lee already nominate candidates for local elections via party caucus.  This isn’t a new system for Massachusetts. Many Towns are doing it already.

6.) No more signature collection.  You collect signatures to get onto a state primary ballot.  When you don’t have get on an official state ballot, you don’t have to collect signatures, saving candidates time and money, and virtually guaranteeing we would have a full-slate of candidates each November.

The manner in which a party chooses its nominees in Massachusetts is entirely up to the party in question.  I say we do away with not only ‘open’ primaries, but also primary elections all together and adopt a caucus system for nominating our Republican Party Nominees for public office.

What say you?

About Paul R. Ferro

Paul R. Ferro is Senior Editor at RedMassGroup.com. The 9th registered user of RedMassGroup.com, Paul has been with RMG from it's inception. He's also a former 4-term Marlborough City Councilor and currently serves as Chairman of the Marlborough Republican City Committee. You can follow him on twitter @PaulFerro