Monday, December 17, 2018




          The results of the last election became official only days ago, but already the next big California vote grows near.

          This reality stems from the Legislature’s 2017 move setting California’s 2020 presidential primary on March 3. It puts the election season here on a very early schedule, with hopes California votes might prove decisive or at least influential.

          It means that for candidates, election season has become almost perpetual. California politicos wanting to move on or move up will have to decide their paths earlier than ever.

          And it means presidential candidates may campaign and advertise heavily here next fall. That’s because mail ballots will go out to voters in early February, about the time of the Feb. 3 first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. Voting will go on here right through the nominally earlier primaries and caucuses in smaller states like New Hampshire and Nevada.

          So Californians will see plenty of candidates from around the country, and pretty soon. These will include not only Democrats, but very likely some Republicans, as GOPers have effectively been put on notice by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller that something might happen soon to President Trump, who keeps tweeting and pronouncing denials that he ever did anything wrong. No one has formally accused him of anything. Yet.

          Perhaps, as Shakespeare put it, “the lady doth protest too much.”

          So if former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the runner-up Republican in 2016, wants to run a credible 2020 race, he’ll have to start here in 2019, campaigning while he raises and spends big bucks on a national drive.

          For it will not be only California voting on March 3, 2020, but also Texas, the No. 2 electoral vote and national convention delegate state, plus Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Vermont.

          Anyone taking the great bulk of delegates at stake on that so-called “Super Tuesday” just might cinch his or her party’s nomination very early.

          In California, this vote will be different from the last few state elections, where all voters could vote for anyone on the primary ballot, the top two vote-getters advancing to the fall general election.

          In presidential primaries, only Republicans can vote for GOP candidates, while Democrats allow votes from both their own party registrants and independents. Confusing matters, every other office on the ballot will as usual be open for voting by all.

          All this means Californians may soon become familiar with Kasich and visiting Democrats. These will likely include the barely defeated Texas senatorial candidate Robert (Beto) O’Rourke, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Vice President Joe Biden, to name just a few. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris also will likely be trying hard by summer to be a favorite daughter. Potential favorite sons include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell and billionaire investor Tom Steyer. Some predict soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Jerry Brown, 78, might run.

          Once all these folks begin appearing around the state, and not merely raising money here, the moved-up primary will be accomplishing a key goal: Acquainting potential presidents with California issues on which many presidents have been woefully ignorant.

          But advancing the primary from its traditional June date puts more pressure on new Gov. Gavin Newsom than any other possible candidate. He says he won’t run for president in 2020, but plenty of others have reneged on similar pledges. For Newsom to become a credible candidate, he must record some significant achievements quickly, perhaps by midsummer, when it would become mandatory to start raising money.

          Newsom shares a political consulting firm with Harris, though, and likely would not get in the race unless Harris dropped out. But Trump apparently takes Newsom’s presidential possibilities seriously, dropping the occasional derogatory tweet on him, a treatment usually reserved for significant rivals he wants to belittle.

          All this puts California voters in an unaccustomed spot: Their presidential preferences might actually matter this year, something that has not happened often.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

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