Guest Editorial: Making California Count

by Assemblymember Sandr? R. Swanson on February 21, 2007

A Case for Presidential Accountability

The California Assembly is about to vote to change the date of California’s presidential primary from June to February 5th. The Senate has already voted in favor of the change and the Governor has given every indication that he, too, favors the earlier presidential primary.

Why is this such a good idea? The historic argument is that by holding a primary as late as June in the presidential year line up, the California vote is rendered largely ceremonial. The presidential front runner nominees will have all but clinched their nominations, tempering the enthusiasm and clout of California voters.

But moving our presidential primary is about more than the excitement of the campaign or reducing the clout of early primary states like Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina.

With ten percent of Americans residing here, California is the most populous state, and one that exalts the great diversity of this nation. A February presidential primary will give California a real voice in national presidential politics. Without it, all but the few remaining presidential candidates will have escaped facing the critical questions to be asked by Californians about issues that disproportionately affect our state. February 5th is the earliest date the state can select for the presidential primary under national party rules, thus it will force all candidates to actually examine and engage in issues as they relate to California.

As Californians, we ought to help set national priorities and hold presidential candidates accountable to their promises. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez recently said before the Sacramento Press Club, “Some national issues, including immigration and coastal oil drilling, are issues that disproportionately impact states like California…prospective nominees should be vetted on their views on these issues sooner rather than later.”

I agree with the Speaker Nuñez. Without an earlier primary, the next presidential nominee will be thrust upon Californians without an opportunity for those voters to participate fully in the candidate vetting process.

As a member of the Assembly I intend to vote for the early presidential primary for California. This is a historic moment for our nation. The next president must be decisive on the questions of war and peace, a national solution to our growing health care crisis and restoring integrity and trust in the presidency. It is very important that all presidential candidates come to California and give their positions on the critical issues of our times.

Our democracy is always strengthened when a change to the electoral process results in greater voter participation.

Sandré R. Swanson is Chair of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and represents California’s 16th Assembly District, which includes most of Oakland.

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