California has moved up its presidential primary by months, a change that could reconfigure the 2020 election and boost Senator Kamala Harris if she runs for president.
Despite being America’s most populous state, California has wielded minimal influence over which presidential candidates win their parties’ nominations. Because California has not held its primaries until June, contenders typically have sewn up the votes they need before the Golden State votes.
But a bill shifting California’s nominating contest to March, signed into law by Gov Jerry Brown on Wednesday, will reverberate through the nominating process.
Presidential contenders will now need to invest time and money into vying for California’s hundreds of delegates. Running campaigns in California is a costly proposition because the vast state encompasses several major media markets, which requires multiple ad buys.
That would be a sharp departure from a status quo in which candidates tend to visit California to raise money but do little to campaign there, spurring complaints that millions of voters are being effectively sidelined in the nominating process. Proponents of moving up California’s primary have argued that the diverse state is more representative of the national electorate than overwhelmingly white early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
“The Prime Time Primary puts California voters in the front seat in choosing our next president and will change our elections for the better”, state Sen Ricardo Lara, the bill’s author, said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to drive a different agenda at the national level and promote inclusion and consensus not the politics of division”.
The move could also buoy Ms Harris, a first-term Democrat whose potential presidential aspirations have fueled rumors since shortly after she took office. Having served two terms as the state’s attorney general, Ms Harris would have the advantage of name recognition and an existing donor network.