Capitol Alert

Make California relevant again? Lawmaker wants to move up presidential primary – one more time

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally last year in Hershey, Pa.
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally last year in Hershey, Pa. AP

With his party solidly out of power in Washington, a Democratic state lawmaker said he plans to introduce a bill that would again move up the presidential primary in California.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin of South San Francisco said his legislation would bump up the state’s 2020 presidential primary from June to March. Mullin announced his intentions on Twitter, about six months after President-elect Donald Trump won what was essentially an unopposed primary in California.

Democrat Hillary Clinton was well on her way to vanquishing Bernie Sanders by the time June rolled around, despite the senator’s late burst of activity here.

“We feel like California becomes more relevant the earlier in the process we hold the primary election,” said Mullin Chief of Staff, Hugh Bower.

California and its glut of wealthy donors has long helped sate the appetites of money-hungry presidential candidates – even when its voters have exerted little influence over choosing the Democratic and Republican nominees.

California sought to correct its lack of bearing in the primaries by shifting it to February in 2008.

“Now California is important again in presidential nominating politics ... and we will get the respect that California deserves,” then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said after signing the bill creating the election.

The contest between Barack Obama and Clinton helped lift turnout among registered voters to nearly 58 percent, exceeding the nearly 48 percent in June.

Presidential primaries were in March in 2000 (54 percent turnout) and 1996 (42 percent). California shared its March 2, 2004, primary with nine states (44 percent). But lawmakers complained about the protracted election season and moved it back to June.

While it helped improve turnout in 2008, moving up the primary did little to erode the state’s standing as the nation’s ATM.

“There's still a lot of money in California that I need to get,” Sen. John McCain, who eventually won the GOP nomination, said ahead of the Feb. 5 primary.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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