Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

California dreaming


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We were initially skeptical when we heard about gay state Senator Ricardo Lara's (D-Bell Gardens) legislation that proposes moving California's presidential primary from June to the third Tuesday in March. While we support the goal – increasing the state's influence in presidential election years – we weren't entirely sold on the plan. After all, California has flirted with early presidential primaries before, and they didn't seem to have much of an effect. Voters confused the presidential primary in March with the regular primary election in June. This did not increase the state's role in presidential elections, except as the all-important ATM for campaign cash.

But after examining Lara's legislation, which passed a Senate panel Tuesday, we now support it.

For one thing, Senate Bill 568 would also move up primary elections in statewide and legislative races in presidential years, eliminating potential voter confusion over multiple election dates, according to a news release from Lara's office. "An earlier presidential primary in 2020 will help engage new voters from the top of the ticket down to state legislative races," Lara's release stated.

"California is the largest, most diverse state in the nation with one of the largest economies in the world," Lara stated. "Yet Californians' voices are silenced when it comes to choosing presidential nominees. California is leading the nation on clean air, criminal justice reform, and expanding health care for all, and moving up our presidential primary will ensure our state's voters are heard in the national debate."

Another change in Lara's bill would give the governor authority to move the presidential primary even earlier if other states move up their primary elections. That, too, would help keep the state relevant.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who supports Lara's proposal, said the Golden State "should not be an afterthought" in presidential politics.

"Moving up the California primary in 2020 makes sense and will give California voters a more significant role," Padilla said in a statement.

There are 19.4 million registered voters in the state and we deserve a greater voice in presidential races in proportion to our numbers. Electoral College and U.S. Senate membership rules disadvantage large states like California and benefit smaller states. Giving Golden State voters more sway in presidential primaries is a worthwhile goal, and Lara's SB 568 aims to improve on earlier attempts. The Legislature should pass it, and Governor Jerry Brown should sign it.


Calexit fizzles

The flawed plan for California to secede from the United States died a quiet death this week when the backers of what had been known as Calexit asked the state to withdraw the ballot measure from signature gathering. That's good news for state residents, who were being asked to weigh in on an incomplete plan hatched by a man who lives in Russia. In fact, according to media reports, the main reason Louis Marinelli pulled the plug on Calexit was that he plans to remain in Russia.

About one out of three Californians supported secession, according to a January Reuters/Ipsos poll, but constitutional law experts said it was going to be all but impossible for the Golden State to leave the union. Frankly, we're glad that the Yes California campaign, as the secessionist movement was officially known, has ended its efforts. Marinelli, according to press reports, has a spotty record and, from our perspective, was dangerous. At one time he campaigned against LGBT rights in the U.S. with the homophobic National Organization for Marriage.

But it was his ties to Russia that ultimately did in Calexit. Since he first announced his plan shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency, more evidence has come to light about Russia's meddling in the U.S. election, as has news about administration officials' ties to the country. Today, Trump continues to try and distract public attention away from what is a growing problem: the involvement by current officials with Russian leaders, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Trump family members Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign over his association with the Russian government. There are plenty of former Trump campaign operatives who also have had dealings with the Kremlin, as documented by news organizations, a potential source for conflicts of interest.

The more Californians heard about Marinelli and Russia, the more uncomfortable they became with the Yes California campaign.

Other secession movements may surface, and when they do, Californians should carefully examine the proponents and their financial contributors to determine whether outside forces are involved, and, if they are, how they would benefit from California leaving the U.S. The fact is, however, that the Golden State will remain part of the United States. There's no way Congress would approve secession, and little chance the other states would go along with such a plan.

Pipedreams like Calexit exist to confuse people and to give a small voice to fringe movements. Californians saw through Marinelli's flawed plan and his Russian connections. Residents concerned about how the Trump administration will negatively affect California have lots of ways to get involved. State and local officials are challenging Trump in court while developing ways for the state and cities to continue providing services in the event that federal funds are cut.

Calexit's death is welcome news.



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