Calif. moves toward earlier presidential primary

Calif. moves toward earlier presidential primary
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California legislators voted Thursday to hold the state’s next presidential primary just after early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, giving Golden State voters a greater voice in the nominating process.

Two measures passed by the Senate and the Assembly would both set California’s primary for the third Tuesday in March. Minor differences between the two bills mean legislators would have to reconcile the versions before they send it to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for a signature.

California held its presidential primaries in June in 2012 and 2016, long after the Republican nominating contests were decided. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up MORE won the 2016 Democratic primary by a narrow margin over Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden faces an uncertain path Bernie Sanders vows to go to 'war with white nationalism and racism' as president Biden: 'There's an awful lot of really good Republicans out there' MORE (I-Vt.). Clinton also won the 2008 state primary, which was held in February, over then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Forget conventional wisdom — Bernie Sanders is electable 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE (D-Ill.) as the two began a long slog toward Obama’s eventual nomination.

Lawmakers say moving the contest closer to the head of the calendar would ensure their state maintains its relevance in the process.

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“The largest and most diverse state in the union should not be an afterthought,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D), who introduced the Senate version of the bill.

“Under the current June primary schedule, candidates fly in for fundraising and then fly right back out again,” said Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D), the sponsor of the House version. 

Moving to the third Tuesday in March would put California’s delegates up for grabs just weeks after the nominating contests are scheduled to start in February and after a handful of other contests in big states like Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia and Ohio.

The nominating calendar is far from finalized, and states are likely to jockey with each other as they vie for influence in coming years. The Democratic and Republican National Committees must formally approve every state’s plans for nominating contests, though those approval processes are years off. 

At least 18 states and six territories haven’t even set proposed dates for their contests in 2020, according to Frontloading HQ, a blog on the nominating process maintained by University of Georgia political scientist Josh Putnam.

The California legislation would give the state’s next governor the authority to tinker with the mid-March date in 2020 if other states rush toward the front of the line too. 

Brown has not said whether he will sign the legislation. Brown scored 40 percent of the vote in the 1992 Democratic primaries in California, long after Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe magic of majority rule in elections The return of Ken Starr Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress MORE had secured the party’s nomination but before Brown formally withdrew from the race.