Political Fix (17 January, 2019)

Are Campaigns Starting to Feel Like Houseguests Who Have Stayed too Long?

I hope you have enjoyed your four-week break from the 2018 election because Campaign 2020 has just begun.

The Iowa Poll released in December gives a glimpse of who voters are considering for possible challengers to President Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in first with 32%, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 19%, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke with 11%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 8% and 5% for California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Up to 30 Democrats are expected to run for president.

It’s not just the presidential primary that has invaded our respite from election politics. I am also talking about our local elections.

Last year Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill changing California’s primary from the first Tuesday in June to March 3. Given the fact that early voting starts February 3, anyone in Kings or Tulare County running for local office needs to start their campaign soon.

Like now.

But before we get into local elections let’s start with why the date was changed in the first place.

California is now part of Super Tuesday along with eight other states. Candidates who do not do well in the February primaries or on Super Tuesday usually drop out of the race. That means presidential candidates will actually have to campaign in California rather than treat us like their personal ATM.

In every other election California was irrelevant because our primary was the second to last in the nation and by June everyone had dropped out of the race – except the eventual nominees.

If you think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous that the fifth largest economy in the world, the largest block of electoral votes, the richest political donors, and the most diverse state in the nation, had no say on who should run for President of the United States.

Candidates used to just drop by for our money, now they need our vote. I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing. But it’s a thing.

Back in the day, primaries were not the major engine to nominate a candidate for president. That happened at the conventions. It’s hard to believe now, but in my grandmother’s generation primaries were little more than beauty contests. Candidates didn’t even have to show up to win.

In 1952 General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s supporters tried to convince him to run for president. But he was a reluctant candidate, so a group of voters in New Hampshire put his name on the Republican Primary ballot.

According to Elaine Kamarck’s 2016 blog, “Without ever stepping a foot in the state, Ike won the primary with 50% of the vote—beating the party favorite, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, by 12 points. And the rest was history.”

Primaries weren’t even the big brouhaha in the 1970’s that cable news has now made them with their nearly 24/7 coverage, computerized election maps, and over analysis of the numbers.

Now that primaries are important, so is the sequence in which they occur. In a sequential contest, the results of one primary affect the next primary and so on, to the point that all states that hold their primaries after March became irrelevant.

New Hampshire has held the first-in-the-nation primary since 1920, making that small, rural, homogenous state carry more weight than all the voters in California.

Iowa actually has the first primary before New Hampshire. But they technically hold a “caucus” and no one knows exactly what that is. In fact, Iowa struggles with the concept themselves because in 2016 the state couldn’t even figure out who won.

The state of New Hampshire plays a huge role in my Doe family history. There is Doe’s Island, Doe’s Marsh, Doe’s Neck and Doe Garrison. So New Hampshire must be pretty important, right?

Well–no, but New Hampshirites think so. They passed a law in 1948 to ensure that their primary would always be first. The law does not tell the other states to stay away from their primary, but is more ingenuous.

“The presidential primary election shall be held …….. on a Tuesday selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous…”

Pretty clever, but there were consequences.

I remember in 2007 Michigan was tired of being ignored like California and scheduled their primary for January 15 so they could be first. So New Hampshire rescheduled theirs for January 8. Not to be outdone, Iowa changed theirs to seven days before that on January 3.

Happy New Year Iowa. Now go trudge through the snow and go caucus.

The New York Times reported, “This year, the primary calendar has been nothing short of a mess.” In the end New Hampshire and Iowa prevailed and Michigan was told to get back in line.

But for 2020 the joke is on New Hampshire and Iowa, law or no law. When you take early voting into account, California’s primary actually overlaps both of their primaries, making our state the first in the nation. Given that, no candidate would want to drop out of the race until California has tallied its votes.

But the real joke may be on us. If California’s early voting starts February 3, that means Campaign 2020 will share billing with Christmas 2019. So get used to seeing your favorite candidate’s mug right next to Santa’s.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Justin Turner, Assembly member Devon Mathis’ Chief of Staff.

“Now instead of focusing on good legislation and working with the district we have an election to think about.”

He said his office was against the bill that changed the primary dates. “It’s a distraction,” said Mr. Mathis according to Mr. Turner.

Mr. Turner also said the date change would be more of a help for the Democrats than the Republicans. Democrats control the state, he said, and there are several California Democrats looking to run for president.

“I think the possibility of Kamala Harris running played a role in California changing the date,” said Turner.

As for other local races, Evette Bakke handles about 20 clients’ campaign finances and needs to file paperwork regularly so she has been aware of the date change since last year. She just met with Tulare County Supervisor Kuyler Crocker last week to strategize. She doesn’t anticipate he will face any serious challengers because Mr. Crocker has done a good job as supervisor.

“What would a challenger base their campaign on?” She said.

She said the Tulare County Registrar of Voters is also on top of the date change adjusting their filing, registering, and voting dates to approximately three months ahead.

Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian already has fundraisers scheduled.

Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel will also be up for election but his campaign war chest usually dissuades any challengers, even under the best of circumstances.

Tulare Mayor Jose Sigala said the primary date change does not affect city council races. Tulare Council members Carlton Jones and Greg Nunley and himself will be up for re election in 2020. But no matter what California does, city council races are always decided in November.

When asked if he was planning on running for Assembly District 26 again Mr. Sigala said, “At this point I have no comment.”

Other offices that will face a primary election are Congress Members TJ Cox and Devin Nunes.

Mr. Sigala did agree the date change will be extremely difficult on challengers for federal, state and supervisor offices. Not only will it be an uphill battle for them in terms of name recognition but many incumbents have a fundraising machine that’s hard to match.

I do have one request for all challengers, incumbents, and their campaign managers, please refer to the definitive Valley Voice Holiday Events calendar before scheduling campaign events. My daughter and I enjoy going to the home tours and holiday boutiques and I don’t want to be choosing between a candidates’ forum and a Christmas tree Auction.

I’ll let you guess which one will win.

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