Capitol Alert

Early presidential primary could benefit one Californian above others

Sen. Kamala Harris, mentioned as a presidential candidate, would land a California delegate windfall.
Sen. Kamala Harris, mentioned as a presidential candidate, would land a California delegate windfall. The Associated Press

California Assemblyman Kevin Mullin’s bill to give the state more political relevance by moving up the presidential primary to March is being pitched as a way to ensure candidates pay more attention to voters rather than just wealthy donors.

“We are largely a political ATM,” Mullin, D-South San Francisco, said Thursday.

Mullin said he was compelled to revive debate over an earlier presidential primary when it became clear California was largely “an afterthought” last year. California’s electorate is more reflective of the nation’s diversity than many of the other early voting states, Mullin said. A March primary would mean many voters here would actually be filing out their ballots in February.

“It’s really about ensuring the conversation and debate on both sides of the aisle involves substantive issues we care about in California and making sure the sixth largest economy in the world is weighing in on the debate.”

“We ought to be included in Super Tuesday,” he said, adding, “We would see candidates coming here. They would ignore California at their own peril.”

Unsaid by Mullin and other supporters of shifting the primary date up from June is that it could benefit one Californian in particular: Newly-minted U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, whose gut appeal among party loyalists has been landing her on White House shortlists long before she arrived in Washington.

Depending on how many other states opted to leapfrog California, an early win in her home state could help give her a significant delegate windfall.

Harris, to be clear, has deflected questions about her political aspirations, first saying she was singularly focused on her old job as attorney general.

During the Senate campaign, she noted her juggling of what amounted to two full-time positions, contending they required more than enough of her energy for her to be distracted by a faraway desire. And throughout the Senate transition, Harris’ aides asserted she was busy enough acclimating to the new post.

That hasn’t – and won’t – do much to end the speculation, particularly with California and its next generation of leaders stepping in to serve as a national counterbalance to Republican-controlled Washington and President-elect Donald Trump.

Asked if he considered Harris in his decision to push the early primary, Mullin said the thought had crossed his mind, but he suggested that she or anyone else from California running for president is a “big if.”

Concluded Mullin: “It’s certainly not the reason I am doing the bill.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago