You might remember I spent a few weeks tracking down the local implications of California’s potential decision to move its 2008 presidential primary to February.

I had talked to three San Diego representatives in the state Legislature to gauge their perceptions of the potential move. Remember, I had concerns about moving the presidential primary up because it would mean California voters — and local agencies — would have to prepare for three major elections between February 2008 and November 2008.

My concern comes from the fact that this is logically unnecessary. They could do everything they want to do to influence the presidential race by moving up the entire state’s primary to February rather than just the presidential part of it. The only reason not to do this was, well, a complex plan to protect the jobs of termed-out lawmakers.

All three San Diego legislators I spoke to then ended up changing their position when it was time to cast their vote this week. I found that somewhat amusing.

George Plescia, just Tuesday, voted against moving the presidential primary election to February. This caught me off guard. After all it was Plescia who had first introduced a bill several weeks ago to do just that.

What had made him change his mind? I just talked to Plescia, who said the bill that ultimately came before the Assembly did not have enough assurances in it that the state would reimburse local counties for holding the special early election for the presidential primary.

The bill says it’s the state’s intent to pay back local counties, but Plescia said he wanted a specific payback timeline.

“I still think moving the primary up is the right thing to do but if it’s such the right thing to do than the Legislature should do the appropriate thing and make sure they refund the counties,” Plescia said.

Then there was Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. She told me several weeks ago that holding a third election would be an unneeded expense for a state already struggling financially. The election is projected to cost an extra $60 million to $90 million.

But then, this week, Saldaña voted in favor of adding the special election.

What gives?

Saldaña’s office gave me this statement:

When SB 113 came up in the Elections Committee, I had conversation with the author, Senator Calderon about my concerns about the cost. I asked him to adopt some suggestions for a less expensive approach, including provisions for a mail-in ballot. Unfortunately, those suggestions were not adopted. Despite that, I do think Californians deserve more attention from presidential candidates, so I gave the bill my support in committee and on the floor.

I’m still concerned about the cost to localities, so I am joint-author on a bill (AB 1654) that would allow mail-in ballots, which would reduce the costs to conduct a separate primary.

Then there was State Sen. Christine Kehoe, who told me several weeks ago that three elections were too many for 2008. Yet Tuesday she voted in favor of the special presidential primary.

What changed her mind?

Here’s what she told me:

“Truth is, I kind of still feel the same way. But in talking to folks in San Diego and Democratic activists, they all think it’s a great idea to move the primary up. They believe that the candidates for president will actually come here and talk to the grassroots rather than just going to high-priced receptions with affluent supporters. I found that argument persuasive.”

So that’s how that worked out.


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