For the first time in decades, the California primaries — on both sides — may profoundly affect the presidential race, boosting turnout and creating a ripple effect that could change the nature of local races around the state.
For example, Tim Clark, who ran Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s two mayoral campaigns, told the Fresno Bee, “If it comes to California, we will see a primary electorate (turnout) that neither party has seen in more than a decade – and all bets are off.”
Swearengin must step down after her two terms, leaving a vacancy that has already been coveted by City Councilman Lee Brand, Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea and community leader H. Spees. Brand and Spees are both Republicans.
The seat held by Debbie Poochigian, who is retiring from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, is also being sought by two Republicans: Clovis Councilman Nathan Magsig and businessman Alex Ott are Republicans.
Because of the competitive nature of the GOP presidential race, a surge in GOP voters could help Brand and Spees.
A January Field poll showed Ted Cruz leading Donald Trump in California, 25% to 23%, but Cruz’s strength was deemed more solid, as 22% of voters preferred Cruz as their second choice, while Trump garnered only 11%.
Additionally, 45% of GOP voters had an unfavorable view of Trump, as opposed to 26% for Marco Rubio and 20% for Cruz. 43% said they would be unhappy with Trump as the party’s nominee, while 24% felt the same way about Rubio and only 21% for Cruz.
California will award 172 delegates to the winner of the GOP primary, 14% of the total needed to win the nomination.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is also targeting the Golden State, though he remains far behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, despite pockets of support.