California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that will move the state’s 2020 presidential primary from June to March, a change that Democrats in the state believe will throw a wrench into President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign by allowing California to set the tone for the primaries across the rest of the country.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who wrote Senate Bill 568, took a jab at Trump by suggesting that a “prime time primary” would give the liberal state a larger voice on the national stage, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“We have a responsibility to drive a different agenda at the national level and promote inclusion and consensus, not the politics of division,” he said.
Other supporters of the bill suggested that an earlier primary would force candidates to begin campaigning in California sooner instead of putting it off until the majority of states have already held their contests.
“Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country’s highest office,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D).
Brown did not make any remarks after signing the bill.
A March primary victory in California would thrust a Democratic candidate to the top of the pack by handing him or her a whopping 33 percent of all delegates elected to that point, elections expert Paul Mitchell determined, even if the national party retaliates by stripping California of 70 delegates.
Such a change would inherently benefit establishment favorites like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. At the same time, grassroots upstarts – like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the 2016 Democratic primaries – may be unable to muster enough ground game to get competitive by the time March rolls around.
California Democrats tested the waters with an early primary in 2008 that saw Hillary Clinton triumph over Barack Obama, but Obama managed to win in the end by winning the next several contests in quick succession. That year, turnout among registered voters soared to 58 percent.
Critics of the bill have painted it as a knee-jerk reaction to Trump’s 2016 victory that is designed solely to hinder his chances at re-election. Indeed, some progressive Democrats have celebrated its passage as such.
“California is the beating heart of the national resistance to Trump, and California Democrats are defining the progressive agenda for America,” state Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman said in a press release. “When it comes to deciding the Democratic nominee, our voices need to be heard early in the process.”