Super Tuesday will bring a cavalcade of candidates to California

The Backroom is a column by the staff of the Long Beach Post with notes and analysis, along with bloops and blunders, from the city’s political scene. It runs every Thursday. To contact us, email [email protected]. For questions or concerns, please contact Managing Editor Melissa Evans: [email protected] or 562-437-5814. 

With Lent less than a week away, The Backroom is toying with the idea of taking a stab at toning down our signature snark. To be honest, we don’t like our chances of being cozy and companionable for 40 days, but today we’re practicing civility and swapping smart-assery for analysis on the upcoming event that’s the election season’s Super-sized Super Tuesday. (Now with 25% more Supernicity!).

Pundits and pollsters are hyper-focused on presidential primaries right now… which candidate won what and why, who is getting the big donations, where will the campaigns head next, what horrible caucus-related glitches remain in the offing?

But for the three states that have already held caucuses or are actively caucusing this week—it’s nothing compared to what’s coming on Super Tuesday, March 3.

Let’s recap: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada combine for a population of 7.5 million people. Los Angeles County alone is home to over 10.1 million people, larger in size than all but a handful of states.

To put it in terms that even we can understand, Los Angeles County’s 5.5 million registered voters is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Minnesota, plus it’s a lot warmer and less enamored of lutefisk.

Presidential candidates who are ahead or behind today could very well change 10 days from now. The Backroom is confident in calling this race: When it comes to the importance of Super Tuesday in California, to paraphrase John Lennon, it’s bigger than… well, never mind.

Some recent history: In September 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation moving California’s presidential primary three months earlier to June an action meant to give the nation’s largest state a similarly sized influence in the presidential nomination process.

“California’s primary will officially be in prime time,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla brayed in a statement at passage of the 2017 law. “Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country’s highest office.” In short: California matters this time.

Besides California and the next most populous state, Texas, 12 other states and one U.S. territory, will also be voting in the presidential primary on Super Tuesday. Less than 5% of delegates necessary to win the Democratic nomination will have been awarded going into Super Tuesday, but on next Tuesday alone, another 34% of delegates will be gobbled up.

Because California has the largest delegate pile of any primary in the nation—415 delegates of the 1,990 delegates needed to win a majority and win the nomination—the Golden State could be the Golden Ticket for candidates on Super Tuesday.

California has voted early before. In 2008, the presidential primary was held in February, not long after New Hampshire and Iowa, but by that point 12 years ago, the Democratic race was basically a two-person scrap between Hillary Clinton, who won the California primary with 204 delegates, over Barack Obama, who left the state with 166 delegates before ultimately winning the nomination and presidency—nowhere near as contentious as the multi-candidate race we have headed into the 2020 primary.

The ethnic diversity of California, not just the size the voting population or delegates up for grabs, will also be critical to the success of any candidate looking to win here on Super Tuesday.

As both Latino and Asian-American population segments continue to grow significantly in California, so too has the strength of their voting power going into Super Tuesday, according to a new election trend analysis published by the USC Price School’s California Civic Engagement Project.

“In 2016, Latinos and Asian Americans together represented the highest percentage of voters of any California primary,” said Mindy Romero, director of the CCEP at the USC Price School. “Combine this with their growing population levels statewide, and these two groups are on track in 2020 to reach their highest percentage yet of California’s Primary Election voters casting a ballot—a total of at least 1,861,000 for Latinos and 722,000 for Asian Americans. Both groups will have considerable impact in California races.”

The growing power of Latino and Asian American voters in the state will almost certainly have an impact locally for City Council and school board elections in Long Beach. Not only did California move up its primary, but Long Beach was hauled along by the nape of its neck, too, in December 2018.

The move was necessitated by Senate Bill 415, also known as the California Voter Participation Rights Act, a law passed the California Legislature that required municipalities with low voter turnout (“We’re looking at you, Long Beach”) to restructure their elections to match up with the state primary.

That move means the local primary will not stand alone as a separate election anymore. Historically low local turnout for one-off Long Beach elections may be completely different for the upcoming contested elections in three City Council districts and two LBUSD districts—especially in a city where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic, Latino and Asian American population combined accounts for over 55% of the local population.

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