Californians have long complained that the nation’s most populous state has little direct influence on presidential elections. California rarely produces a candidate. Our primary usually is an afterthought.
That could change in 2020.
At least a couple of California Democrats, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, are showing interest in the race. Either could be the first serious contender from the state for a major party’s nomination since 1992, the last time Jerry Brown ran for the White House.
Of more immediate interest, this week the California Legislature is poised to pass a bill that would change the date of the state’s primary, starting in 2020, from June to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. If Senate Bill 568 is approved by the Assembly, it would need Gov. Brown’s signature to become law.
The switch would apply, also, to congressional, state legislative and statewide races.
It’s unclear if the Democratic majority in Sacramento has thought through the potential effects of moving California’s Democratic and Republican primaries from late in the election calendar to right after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
For one thing, it’s no sure thing that it would expand California’s power. Other states could move up their primaries too. The last time California went early — when it was one of many states holding primaries on Feb. 5, 2008 — Hillary Clinton won here but lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
The most important impact of more prominent timing is that it would make California the focus of campaign spending and effort. Good for this state, maybe, but not good for competition and wide-open debate. Candidates who aren’t well-funded from the start would have less chance at their party’s nomination.
Democrats should worry that a promising but less-rich, less-known Democratic candidate could be overlooked, and that a serious challenge to President Trump on the GOP side…