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California Seeks More Sway by Moving Up Presidential Primary

Governor Jerry Brown of California discusses climate action at "We The Future" at Ted Theater on Sept. 21, 2017 in New York.
Governor Jerry Brown of California discusses climate action at "We The Future" at Ted Theater on Sept. 21, 2017 in New York.

Super Tuesday, the jam-packed day of presidential primary voting every four years, may get supercharged in 2020 with California joining the pack, bringing along its prize of the most delegates.

Gov. Jerry Brown gave his stamp of approval Wednesday to a measure jumping California's primary up to the beginning of March, three months earlier than its contest in 2016, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had already captured the major parties' nominations.

“The Golden State will no longer be relegated to last place in the presidential nominating process,” Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country's highest office.”

More sway in selecting nominees

Bumping the primary up is designed to give the nation's most populous state more sway in choosing the Republican and Democratic nominees.

And it could seriously shake up the nominating contest.

California, home to 11 media markets, is an expensive state to campaign in, potentially giving well-funded candidates an edge.

Puts state in spotlight

Democratic leaders said the bill gives California the spotlight it deserves given its record of pushing the national conversation around immigration and other issues.

“With all due respect to our brothers and sisters in Iowa and New Hampshire, California is the beating heart of the national resistance to Trump,” Eric Bauman, chairman of the California Democratic Party, said in a statement. “When it comes to deciding the Democratic nominee, our voices need to be heard early in the process.”

Iowa and New Hampshire will still have their early say.

The measure puts the state's primary on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, often known as “Super Tuesday,” when as many as a dozen states hold nominating contests. It will still fall after the earliest caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Moved to February in 2008

In 2016, California held its primary in June when Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump were already the major party nominees. California typically awards the most delegates.

The state moved its presidential primary to February in 2008, but the shift did not exert influence on the Democratic side. Clinton won the state's primary, but Barack Obama went on to capture the party's nomination.

The change also pushes California's primary for state offices to March.

The Democratic and Republican national committees have not set rules for the 2020 contest yet. The parties set a calendar as well as how many delegates each state is awarded.

California received extra delegates for holding a late primary in 2016 and likewise could be punished in 2020 for moving up the election.