Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law the “Prime Time Primary Act,” a bill that moves California’s primary from June to March, beginning in 2020.
Although California is a heavy hitter in terms of money to be raised and electoral votes to be won, a June primary means that we have had pretty much no say in choosing the parties’ nominees: “By the June California primary elections in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were already their parties’ presumptive nominees,” as NPR put it.
But will the change be a mixed blessing?
On the pro side: California will weigh in earlier in the primaries and make a difference.
On the con side: California is a big-deal media state, so any candidate must be able to pay for TV ads in the primaries in order to gain attention. In other words: The earlier primary favors candidates who are established and who have hit up big donors. A trailing but worthy candidate, particularly one without big bucks or wealthy connections, may fall by the wayside. That may leave us, by default, with candidates we wouldn’t necessarily favor.
And the joker: Some candidates don’t need to pay for ads to get in the public’s eye. Trump spent little on ads in the primaries, but got tons of free coverage for his daily road show. Come to think of it, we don’t want any more candidates like that either …
So where does the earlier primary leave us? Good or bad for California? Good or bad for progressive politics and for future races? It’s an open question for now.