‘The future comes to California first’: Democrats’ leader wants state to host nation’s earliest primary

Bryan Anderson

California has seen mixed results since it bumped up its primary from June to March.

Some are disappointed the Golden State hasn’t gotten as much attention as Iowa or New Hampshire, the two earliest voting states in the 2020 Democratic primary. Others see the state having more influence through candidate visits.

While it’s true 25 Democratic presidential candidates have flocked to California for rallies or fundraisers, trips have become fewer and further between lately, with campaigns devoting more attention of their attention to other, less diverse states like Iowa.

On Friday, Rusty Hicks, leader of the California Democratic Party, said he thinks a more diverse state like California should hold its election day first.

“We started off in June, we’ve moved back to March, I think we’re making progress in the right direction,” Hicks told reporters at a news conference Friday afternoon. “I agree with the premise that a more diverse state should be a part of selecting the nominee for this party. Obviously, there are plenty of decision-makers about when that primary is, but I certainly think being on Super Tuesday ... is a real opportunity for California.”

He said Iowa’s influence does not upset him, though he would like California to have a strong influence.

Asked if it’s appropriate for homogenous states like Iowa and New Hampshire to have such a big role in the process, he replied, “As presidential candidates are making their pitch to the rest of the country, I think we have the opportunity to pitch California as one of the most diverse states in the country and reflective of the future of the country. Many say the future comes to California first. I think there’s an argument for that in this presidential campaign.”

Shortly thereafter, Hicks sat down with The Bee for an interview on the “California Nation” podcast scheduled to air on Thursday, Nov. 21, where he said California “would love to be the first one through the gate” in the Democratic primary.

Hicks also reiterated the frustration he had expressed in a tweet earlier this month criticizing what he considered a “misguided decision” from former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to “publicly snub” California Democrats and Latinos by not attending the state party’s convention in Long Beach. He said the candidates told him “they had scheduling conflicts and simply couldn’t join us.”

“I certainly expressed my disappointment,” Hicks told The Bee. “It was an opportunity to give voice to what everyone else was thinking, which is when you don’t show up, we’re obviously disappointed that you didn’t join us.”

Twelve other candidates, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are scheduled to speak on Saturday, with eight of them participating in a forum hosted by Univision.

California may not yet have the influence some would ultimately like, but Hicks predicted California would get more attention during the middle and end of the 2020 primary cycle. With 495 delegates up for grabs, nearly one-tenth of the country’s total, California voters will have an outsized in choosing who will take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“The important thing is us being able to showcase the diversity of California,” Hicks said. “I think we get the opportunity to do that on Super Tuesday and have a big impact on who the final nominee is.”