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As you know, I’ve been trying to nail down rumors about whether the state would move up its presidential primary election — both to potentially increase California’s influence on presidential politics and to give our initiative-happy state yet another ballot on which to put referendums. The idea floating around Sacramento would separate the planned June 2008 election into a presidential primary in March and the regular state primary in June.

So I had decided to start asking our local representatives in Sacramento for their thoughts.

I’ve now gotten my first, and I would imagine most surprising, response from Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña:

Moving the primary dates hasn’t worked- other states simply pushed their dates back as well. And a separate primary would cost state taxpayers tens of millions at a time when we are still dealing with deficits.

Given these drawbacks, I’m more supportive of an early caucus approach.

Also, I think voters would benefit in additional ways from participating in a caucus: they would receive from more direct attention from the candidates, and our democratic process would benefit from local organizing efforts, without the state carrying the cost of a separate primary.

A caucus? Like in Iowa?

That was George Skelton’s idea.

I don’t think anyone would go for it. It seems like the only reason people want to move up the presidential primary to March is not so that the state will have more influence over who gets to be commander in chief. They already tried that in 2004 and John Kerry was clearly the Democratic nominee by the time California got a say in it.

The point of the talk this time around appears to be so that some interests can have yet another ballot on which to put their desired referendums.

A caucus wouldn’t give them that ballot. But it would be kind of fun, no?

SCOTT LEWIS

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