With Trump in mind, California Republicans change delegate rules ahead of 2024 primary

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La July 31, 2023
Presented by Dairy Cares, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Southern California Gas Company and Earthjustice

With Trump in mind, California Republicans change delegate rules ahead of 2024 primary

In a presidential year, California’s 2024 primary is in March instead of June, and the state is the biggest prize for the Republican nomination. Over the weekend, the state GOP changed the rules in a way that appears likely to boost former President Donald Trump and to make California the delegate “mother lode of the nomination process,” according to one consultant I spoke to.

First, a reminder: Under the old rules, Republican presidential candidates could win three delegates in each congressional district in California, which allowed them to target specific areas without running an expensive statewide campaign. In previous primaries, multiple candidates could walk away with at least some delegates under their belts.

  • Mike Madrid, GOP political consultant: “The whole purpose of moving delegates selection to congressional districts was to increase candidate participation in California’s primary and empower grassroots participation district by district and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

But for the March primary, if any candidate can secure more than 50% of the votes statewide, they will get all 169 delegates, reports the Los Angeles Times. If no one wins a majority, the delegates will be awarded proportionately based on each candidate’s share of the statewide vote. Currently, California is one of 14 states set to hold their presidential primary on March 5, but it offers the biggest chunk of the estimated 1,234 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.

As the candidate who has racked up the most amount of campaign money to date, this arrangement does give Trump an advantage — but only if he remains the frontrunner, even as he faces multiple indictments and investigations. While the new system could also discourage other candidates from campaigning in California, some pro-Trump protestors objected to the move.

Dan Schnur, a professor of political communications at UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, said it’s unclear what prompted state GOP leaders to switch to this system — which he described as the “frontrunner protection act” — since other processes were also being considered. But he and others have a suspicion.

  • Schnur: “Whether or not there are Trump’s fingerprints on this change, it’s pretty clear that it wouldn’t have happened without the campaign’s strong support.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for his campaign said Trump “looks forward to working with the California Republican Party… as he continues to dominate statewide polling by over 50%.”

Speaking of the March primary: The main Democratic contenders for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Dianne Feinstein are taking advantage of the August congressional recess to build support across California. 

Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland will be busy in San Francisco today, first speaking with the Bay Area Council, a business and public policy group, followed by a meet and greet hosted by San Francisco hyperlocal news site Mission Local.

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank will be making his rounds in the Central Valley. On Wednesday, Schiff is scheduled to host a discussion about the state economy with local business leaders, then speak at a Kern County Democratic Party dinner. The next day he’ll be speaking with community members and leaders about water issues.

And Rep. Katie Porter of Irvine plans an environmental town hall Thursday evening in Costa Mesa. Among measures on the environment and climate change, she is pushing bills to require oil companies to pay more in leases to clean up after drilling on public lands.

Schiff and Porter of Irvine are in a dead heat in recent polls. In a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released this month, Porter (19%) had a slight lead over Schiff (16%) among likely voters. But a June poll by Emerson College and Inside California Politics gave Schiff a 1-percentage-point lead over Porter, with 15%. Lee was in third place in both surveys, with 13% in the PPIC poll and 6% in the Emerson poll.

In campaign cash, however, Schiff is miles ahead. As of June 30, Schiff’s Senate campaign had more than $29 million cash on hand, while Porter and Lee reported about $10 million and $1.4 million, respectively. And it doesn’t look as if the momentum is stopping anytime soon: Schiff raised at least $8.2 million, or roughly double the combined total of his two Democratic opponents in recent months, according to the Los Angeles Times.


More CalMatters kudos: We’re a finalist for two awards from the global Online Journalism Association. Byrhonda Lyons and Jocelyn Wiener (with data analysis by Jeremia Kimelman) are up in the “Excellence in Social Justice Reporting” category for their story on how California’s prison system shuffles around mentally ill inmates. And Julie Cart and former CalMatters climate reporter Nadia Lopez, with data analysis by Erica Yee, are up for the ‘Topical Reporting: Climate Change” category for their “Race to Zero” series on California’s transformation to electric vehicles. Winners will be announced on Aug. 17.

CalMatters is growing: Our nonprofit newsroom is adding staffers to fulfill our mission to inform Californians. We have several new job openings, including for an economy reporter, a tech reporter and a state Capitol reporter (in partnership with Voice of San Diego) who will focus on San Diego and the Inland Empire. See all our opportunities and apply here.


1 Where will CA nurses come from?

Kaiser Permanente health care workers strike outside a Kaiser facility in Sacramento on July 25, 2023. Workers are on the picket lines to protest patient care crisis and unsafe staffing at Kaiser hospitals. Photo by Rahul Lal for CalMatters
Kaiser Permanente health care workers strike outside a Kaiser facility in Sacramento on July 25, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal for CalMatters

The state’s nursing shortage is in dire straits, affecting the health of Californians and burning out overworked nurses. But industry experts can’t agree over the various proposals aiming to attract more early-career nurses into the field.

As CalMatters’ health reporter Kristen Hwang explains, California needs about 36,000 licensed nurses. Nursing vacancy rates at local hospitals exceed 30%. (Before the pandemic the average vacancy rate was 6%). 

Two bills in the Legislature, backed by some labor organizations, would require nursing schools to prioritize certain applicants for admission. This includes one bill that would establish a pilot program for high schoolers who take extra classes, giving them preferential admission into a community college nursing program. The other would require community colleges to reserve enrollment slots for health care workers looking to advance their careers.

  • Jan Emerson-Shea, spokesperson for the California Hospitals Association: “We… hear from employees that they’ve tried getting into community college programs, but because they’re so impacted, it can take them three, four or five years to get into the program.”

But leaders from community colleges and some university nursing schools say that nursing programs are already at capacity. Schools across California received more applications during the 2020-21 school year than they ever had in the last 10 years. And because these bills don’t increase the number of admission slots, the number of graduates won’t increase either.

  • Karen Bradley, California Association of Colleges of Nursing president: “We have not had a dip at all in enrollment in my program. I have a waiting list. Every dean is going to tell you that they have a waiting list or enough qualified applicants that they turn away students.”

A third measure, criticized by hospitals and four-year universities, would guarantee clinical placement spots for community college students. Opponents say this would overwhelm nursing staff at hospitals — particularly small rural ones already struggling financially — and favor community students while displacing nursing students from other institutions.

2 Helping foster youth

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

To say that state policy has been a mixed bag for the 60,000 or so foster children and youth in California would be putting it lightly.

On the plus side: 

Foster youth will be able to attend public colleges for free, thanks to $25 million tucked into the 2023-24 state budget. The money will also cover housing, books and food at the University of California, California State University and California community colleges.

  • State Sen. Angelique Ashby, a Sacramento Democrat who authored the proposal, in a statement: “Far too many foster youth want to go to college, and are unable to afford it…. For foster youth who have lost everything, this bill provides hope that they can attend college without crippling debt.”

On the negative side:

As CalMatters has reported, to help pay for their care, counties routinely take the Social Security benefits of foster children who are disabled or whose parents have died. The practice is now subject to a court fight.

On a smaller issue, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill late last week that would expand the state’s Foster Youth Bill of Rights to let children switching schools due to their placements go back to their former school to connect with teachers and classmates and get their belongings. 

  • Newsom, in his veto message: “While I appreciate the author’s intent to support foster youth who change schools midyear, AB 1506 creates a new right without setting forth the policies needed to effectuate it. Specifically, this bill does not identify who will be responsible for implementing this new right or set a manner to hold them accountable for failing to meet the requirement.”

Speaking of the governor: On Thursday, Newsom announced appointments to California’s first Racial Equity Commission, which “will recommend tools and opportunities to advance racial equity and address structural racism,” and provide support to state and local governments.

The 2023-24 budget agreement has set aside $3.8 million for this eight-member commission (plus another that focuses on youth empowerment), as well as $3.1 million for the next seven years. All members of the group are Democrats, including Executive Director Larissa Estes, a director of an Alameda County anti-poverty group.

In a statement, Newsom said he is “proud to appoint these diverse leaders…to ensure that all our communities have a fair shot at achieving the California dream.”


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California has experienced population and economic growth for virtually all of its 173-year history, but now may be facing prolonged stagnation.

Parents with children born prematurely remain unsupported by California’s nation-leading paid family leave laws, writes Cassie Lawrence, senior director of public relations at JSA+Partners and a San Diego mother of two.


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How Russell City became Bay Area reparations epicenter // The Mercury News

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Hotel housekeepers ask Taylor Swift to postpone Los Angeles shows // KTLA

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Silicon Valley office vacancy hits ‘historic high’ as tech sector wobbles // The Mercury News

Oakland NAACP blasts city leaders over ‘intolerable’ crime levels // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow


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