The Riggs Report: California’s election irrelevance
California’s primary held in June
It’s easy to understand why voters in New Hampshire love their presidential politics. Because of its first-in-the-nation status, the state’s primary gets candidate and media attention far out of proportion to its measly 23 Republican delegates and 24 Democratic delegates.
On the flip side, mega-state California gets little to no love from the presidential campaigns or the reporters who cover them, even though it has an enormous delegate prize-546 Democratic delegates, and 172 Republican delegates.
With California’s June primary coming so late in the season, the vote here just won’t matter, again, unless Donald Trump starts to fade and the contest becomes, well, more of a contest.
We’re used to this by now, or should be. The last Republican primary that mattered here was in 1976, when former governor Ronald Reagan beat Gerald Ford. The last time the Democratic primary really counted here was in 1972, when George McGovern topped Hubert Humphrey.
California lawmakers have tinkered with the calendar before in an effort to give the state more influence beyond just serving as a giant fundraising machine for the presidential campaigns. In 1996, the state’s primary was moved to late March. In 2000 and 2004, the vote was held in early March. And in the most aggressive move of all, the primary was moved to February in 2008. It didn’t seem to matter much, as other states moved their elections up to front-load the calendar.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton and John McCain topped the California ballot, but the state’s vote was diluted by being held on Super Tuesday, along with 23 other states.
There were complaints in 2008 about the extra cost of holding a separate presidential primary in February, with a state primary in June. And in years prior, there was grumbling about how long and expensive the campaign year had become, due to an early primary.
In 2012, under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown the prior year, California went right back to where things started, with a June primary. That also means we’re back to being a campaign orphan; a giant state where voters are largely ignored.
It’s no wonder that political activists in California are savoring the chance to head to Nevada this weekend to engage in direct campaign work for their candidates. With the Democratic caucus on Saturday and the Republican caucus the following Tuesday, Nevada represents the best chance for political junkies from California to witness and participate in presidential campaigns directly, instead of simply following the action on the Web or on TV.
It’s a lot closer than New Hampshire, and there’s no need to pack the snowshoes.