Californians won't choose their 2012 presidential nominees until June under legislation that's heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
Assembly Bill 80, by Democratic Assemblyman Paul Fong, would move the presidential primary from February of next year to June, consolidating it with the statewide primary election. The bill was approved by the state Senate on a vote of 34-3.
Supporters said consolidating the two statewide elections would save state and local officials roughly $100 million. They also pointed out that national political parties have moved to impose sanctions on states that hold their primaries as early in the cycle as California had planned.
"This is a bill where we're putting politics to the side. ... We have to be fiscally prudent with the taxpayers' dollars," said Sen. Kevin DeLeón, D-Los Angeles, who presented the bill on the floor.
The move was largely opposed by Republicans who said moving the date so late in the cycle would put Californian voters and issues on the back burner for candidates competing for their party's nomination, though some said they "reluctantly" decided to vote for the measure because of the cost savings involved. They said they would prefer to consolidate the primaries to one March date, a concession Republicans had sought during early budget negotiations.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, said having an earlier primary date made California "the big dog" in the early, more competitive stages of the campaign and helped focus candidates on issues affecting the state's residents.
"While it saves the state money, it is at the expense of democracy," he said.