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California Democrats Still Waiting For The Full Iowa Treatment From Presidential Candidates

Ben Adler/Capital Public Radio
Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris speaks to reporters at this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in Long Beach.";

When California moved its primary election up from June to March, backers hoped the nation’s biggest state would have more sway in nominating presidential candidates. But so far, the jury’s still out. 

Compared to the state party’s spring convention in San Francisco, this one was kind of a snoozer. Instead of rival crowds trying to out-shout each other, the chants were sporadic.

And in their individual interviews during a Univision town hall, the candidates didn’t focus much on California. 

“A woman beats Donald Trump every single day, and her name is Nancy Pelosi!” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, adding a rare shout-out to the state’s earlier primary: “We thank the sunny, Super Tuesday state of California for her!”

But two of the frontrunners, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, were no-shows — Biden for the second straight convention.

And even though major candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg did show up, with Sanders clearly drawing the largest crowd, California just hasn’t gotten the same attention as Iowa and New Hampshire.

To some Golden State Democrats, that’s not cool.

“Seems a bit unfair to have two states, three states, sort of dictate the way the election’s going to go,” said Los Angeles high school teacher Danny Colin. 

“Everyone wants to get to California in general, because this is where they raise their money,” said San Jose political activist Shay Franco-Clausen. “So, of course, they come here, right? It’s the piggy bank. But can I see them?”

Colin thinks the only solution is to shake up the primary and caucus order even more.

“I just feel like there should be more states, earlier states, bigger states,” he said. “That way it doesn’t feel like, ‘oh, it all comes down to this or that.’”

But Franco-Clausen hopes candidates and campaigns will learn to prioritize California — eventually.

“We wanted to lead, but we haven’t felt the impact of moving it forward,” she said. “It’s too soon. It’s the first time we’ve done it. So we really can’t tell. I think that maybe in the future, we’ll be able to see — was this a good idea?”

California counties start sending out vote-by-mail ballots in early February — the same day as the Iowa caucuses.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Raadi