Seeking Political Sway, California Moves Presidential Primary to March

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Aiming to boost clout and voter turnout, California will move it its presidential primary election up from June to March beginning in 2020, under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Supporters hope holding the election on the first Tuesday of March, known as Super Tuesday, will force presidential candidates to boost campaign efforts in the nation’s most populous state.

California, which traditionally holds its primaries in June, is notoriously expensive to campaign and advertise in because of its size and large media markets. In 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had clinched their parties’ nominations ahead of California’s contest.

As currently constructed, California would move up to fifth in the primary pecking order. Only the District of Columbia held a primary election later than California in 2016.

Author state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Los Angeles, applauded the Democratic governor’s decision.

“The Prime Time Primary puts California voters in the front seat in choosing our next president and will change our elections for the better,” Lara said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to drive a different agenda at the national level and promote inclusion and consensus not the politics of division.”

California has tried different primary dates over the last several decades in an effort to play a larger role in the nomination process. It held early primaries in 1996 and 2008 but with the Golden State mired in recession, Brown approved moving the primary back to June after taking office in 2011.

Brown signed Lara’s Senate Bill 568 without comment on Wednesday. The measure received bipartisan support in the Legislature and was supported by the state’s secretary of state.

The earlier primary could benefit California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who has been rumored as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. The state’s Democratic Party allows independent voters to participate in its primary while the Republican Party does not.

The announcement could have a ripple effect and encourage other states to move up their 2020 primaries. When California moved up its election date to February in 2008, it shared the date with 23 other states.

California’s new Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman said the rest of the United States need to remember that the Golden State’s Democrats are the ones “defining the progressive agenda for America” and should have their say in presidential politics early on.

“With all due respect to our brothers and sisters in Iowa and New Hampshire, California is the beating heart of the national resistance to Trump, and California Democrats are defining the progressive agenda for America with the work we are doing on the ground every single day,” Bauman said in a statement. “When it comes to deciding the Democratic nominee, our voices need to be heard early in the process.”

Brown has yet to decide on another election matter that would require presidential candidates to release tax returns to voters in order to be listed on the California ballot. The fourth-term governor has declined to comment on the Trump-inspired measure, which is also supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.


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