Why Are So Many Presidential Hopefuls Visiting California?

April 15, 2019

By Max Godnick

California is used to sunshine and the spotlight ー but the Golden State is getting a different kind of attention this year from the growing number of Democratic presidential candidates making early campaign visits to the West Coast.

The state's next presidential primary will be held on Super Tuesday ー March 3, 2020 ー when about a dozen other states will also decide who gets the largest single-day delegate haul of the campaign.

Californians have traditionally cast their primary votes much later in the process, in June, but that changed that in 2017 when lawmakers passed the "Prime Time Primary" bill moving up the scheduled primary to increase the state's influence in the nominating process.

"No offense to any other state, I think we're just as important as Iowa and New Hampshire," said the California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who authored the bill while he was in the state senate.

"California is the largest state, and I would argue the most powerful state in the Union. Our primary should be prime time," he said in an interview with Cheddar's Alyssa Julya Smith.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont made early trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as he makes his second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has taken his message from townhalls in South Bend, Ind., to the bright lights of Bill Maher's Hollywood sound-stage. And California's own Sen. Kamala Harris announced her run for the Democratic nomination on the steps of Oakland City Hall, hoping to add momentum to the home-state enthusiasm for her campaign.

The primary's newfound importance could influence the type of candidate the parties ultimately choose, and the issues they coalesce around, said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries.

"Housing, economic development, climate change, immigration, these are issues that resonate really strongly in California," he said. "I think the voters there are going to be looking for candidates that can speak to those issues."

The timing of the primary could also affect voter turnout. More competitive races tend to bring out a more voters who are even more engaged. The last time California moved up its primary date was 2008, when more than 5 million voters turned out ー a state record.

The move to Super Tuesday could make California's primary as important as the predictive races in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"I always like to say, whether you like it or not, California is coming to a neighborhood near you," Lara said.