California has the most people and more registered voters than any other state, the world’s sixth-largest economy and often, little influence over who Republicans and Democrats nominate for president.
State lawmakers want to change that. As the California State Legislature’s session wound down Friday, Sept. 15, the Assembly voted to move the state’s 2020 primary from June to early March, possibly on “Super Tuesday” when a number of states – 11 in 2016 – hold primaries.
Senate Bill 568 passed the Assembly 55-21 and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. In May, the Senate voted 32-6 in favor of the bill. A Brown spokesman declined to say whether the governor would sign the legislation, which would place California’s primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.
A March primary here could have a major effect on the 2020 presidential race – that’s supporters’ goal, anyway.
“A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“Moving California’s presidential primary to March from June means candidates in both parties can’t treat immigration, climate change, criminal justice reform and investing in jobs and innovation like afterthoughts, as they did too often in 2016,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said in a news release.
Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, was more reserved.
“It’s very hard to predict the impact of a date change,” Pitney said. “Everything will depend on the identity of the candidates and the competitiveness of the race.”
Most states’ primaries are over by the time California votes in June. By then, there’s usually a clear idea of who the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will be, with candidates coming to California mainly to raise money from wealthy donors.
Last year’s primary featured vigorous campaigning in California by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
But it was largely symbolic. By staying in the race even though Clinton had enough delegates to win before California’s primary, Sanders sought to steer the Democratic Party left, while Clinton sought to avoid an embarrassing California loss en route to the Democratic National Convention in July.