QUALIFYING will begin next week for Republicans and Democrats seeking office in 2014 in Georgia. The key races will be for Governor and U.S. Senate, although all statewide offices are up for re-election. The U.S. Congressional seats are also up for vote and in Barrow County the battle for the 10th district has drawn numerous candidates.

The primary will be held in May this year, much earlier than in past elections. Traditionally the primary in Georgia is in July, although it has been as late as August.

Georgia lawmakers, however, approved the earlier date after a federal judge’s ruling in 2013 to allow for more time for military and overseas ballots in runoff situations. Under the change, any runoff would now be held July 22. Qualifying for office — where candidates officially sign up and pay their qualifying fee — will be March 3-7. The change in primary dates means candidates won’t have those summer weeks to campaign, something that has been a long staple in Georgia politics. The summer BBQs and fish fries won’t be as abundant this time around and primary candidates won’t be part of July 4 parades. Of course, many Georgians are likely unaware there is even an election this year. Recently, this columnist mentioned it to someone and the response was, “Are we voting for president already?”

In other statewide voting news, Secretary of State Brian Kemp wants to have the state’s presidential primary early. Kemp is proposing March 1 as a southeastern “Super Tuesday” to make sure Southern voters have a say in the presidential election.

Traditionally in presidential campaigns, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are the first states to hold caucuses or primaries. The Republican National Committee has even voted to prevent states from moving their primaries to February to take away from the impact the first four states have.

States can hold presidential primaries from March 1-14 if they award their delegates proportionally based on percentages candidates receive. Currently, Georgia is a winner take all delegates state.

Secretary of State Kemp said Tennessee is also planning to move its presidential primary to March 1 and that he has had talks with Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana about also making the move to an earlier date.

In Georgia, the Secretary of State is allowed to set the date for presidential primaries, although others call for legislative action for a change.

The move would be a good one for Georgia voters, who are often ignored by presidential candidates. It’s also never made sense for a handful of states to have so much power in determining a party’s presidential nominee. Often by the time the Georgia voters go to the polls, several candidates have already ended their campaigns.

It’s never been made clear why a handful of states are more important than the rest of the country. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are important, but certainly not more important than ones in Georgia, Florida, etc.

A change in primary dates for our state, would ensure candidates view Georgia voters as important and actually take the time to visit.

With both the Democrats and Republicans having contested presidential primaries in 2016, it could be a fun campaign to follow, even in our state.

•On Feb. 21, I was given a tip that the number of candidates for the U.S Senate Republican primary could drop by one or two by the time official sign-ups begin next week.

On Saturday, one candidate did drop out as Korean-American Eugene Yu decided to run for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District where Democrat John Barrow is the incumbent.

The decision by Yu, who has been campaigning for months for the U.S. Senate nomination, seems odd on the surface. My source told me the state GOP wanted to trim down the number of candidates and encouraged Yu to run for another office.

We’ll know the official number of primary candidates after next week when qualifying for Republicans and Democrats concludes. I’ll comment more on this after we see who officially signs up to run.

Chris Bridges is editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at cbridges@ barrowjournal.com.

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