PHOENIX, Sept 2 (Reuters ) - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday opted not to move up the state's Republican presidential primary to January 31, in what could have been a controversial move that would have shaken up the party's electoral calendar.
Brewer, a Republican, had until this Saturday to move the primary forward to the end of January, leapfrogging over other states including Iowa and New Hampshire that traditionally hold early nominating contests.
"Just as important as what I'm announcing today is what I'm not announcing: a formal date for Arizona's Presidential Preference Election," Brewer said in a statement released by her office on Friday. "I will for the time being keep my options open."
A spokesman for Brewer, who had been expected to make an announcement on the matter on Friday, later clarified that the governor did not now intend to move the primary to January 31. The primary has been scheduled for February 28, although the exact date could still be moved.
The 2012 presidential nominating race kicks off with the Iowa caucuses on February 6, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina the same month.
Shunting Arizona's primary to January 31 would likely have set off a scramble among the other states to jump ahead once again, throwing the Republican electoral calendar into turmoil.
"With whatever date I choose, my goal remains the same as ever: To provide Arizona voters the biggest possible platform with which to impact the presidential nomination process. In such a critical election, this is a decision that is owed careful consideration," Brewer said.
The Republican National Committee tentatively offered to hold a presidential debate in Arizona in an apparent exchange for the state not bringing forward its primary from February 28.
Brewer welcomed the debate, saying it was a "tremendous opportunity" that would allow major presidential candidates to travel to Arizona to "speak with our voters and address issues unique to the Southwest."
"Arizona is a battleground for critical issues ranging from illegal immigration to Medicaid reform and the housing crisis," she said. "Our voters deserve to hear the presidential candidates speak to these and other important matters."
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)