The California presidential primary election went from possibly being decisive to not mattering much after the results of this week, which will likely hurt voter turnout, a UC San Diego political science professor said Wednesday.
Donald Trump‘s victory in Tuesday’s Indiana primary election prompted his remaining opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to abruptly end their Republican presidential campaigns. Trump’s win left him just short of clinching the GOP nomination.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton lost to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but he only cut into her dominant delegate lead by a small amount.
“What it means is that rather than being sort of a history-making election because of high stakes and energized voters, we may see another history-making low-turnout election just as we had in 2014,” said Thad Kousser of UCSD. “California set a record for the lowest turnout as a percentage of voters, and actually got the lowest raw number of voters in any election since 1960.”
The presidential election, combined with Trump’s ascension, has “sucked up” voter attention, and now it will be hard to get voters to shift their focus to local races, Kousser said.
San Diego voters in the June 7 primary election will decide whether to keep or replace Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whether to raise the minimum wage faster than the rest of the state, and vote on five City Council races — a few of which might be close.
Kousser said controversial ballot measures sometimes save turnout, but the biggest of those will come in November. The city’s minimum wage proposal initially stirred up local controversy, but outright opposition during the election campaign has been minimal.
Trump and Clinton — the former first lady, senator and secretary of state — will still make occasional appearances in California, despite having all but secured their nominations, according to Kousser.
“(The primary is) a good excuse to come in and raise money, and to do some public events to keep energy up while you’re using California for what it’s always been used for, which is the ATM of the national candidates,” Kousser said.
“I think Donald Trump might enjoy parts of his victory lap, but he certainly doesn’t want to get off a message that has much more appeal in the Midwest than it does in a place like California,” the professor said. “If he spends all his time in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Michigan, he can be cheered on the factory floor. If he comes to California, he’s going to get protested by immigrant rights advocates every time — and that’s not helping his campaign.”
With a laugh, he said, “I thought I knew political science before this election (season). We’ve been wrong about so many things and one of the strange things, given what an unpredictable campaign this has been so far, is how everyone is acting like the November outcome is totally predictable. Haven’t we learned something by misjudging Donald Trump for a year?”
–City News Service