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Election 2000 logo (sm) Voters Guide Calif. Primary - Mar. 7


Open primary mixes parties
Smaller parties offer more choices
Presidential primary is a mother lode
The presidential candidates on the issues
Other candidates in the presidenital race
A quiet GOP Senate campaign
Other candidates for the Senate seat

District 10
District 12
District 13
District 14
District 15
District 16
District 17

District 11
District 13
District 15

District 23
District 24
District 28
Districts 18, 20, 21, 22, and 27

Voters facing 20 ballot measures
Pro, con, for and against

Santa Clara County
Board of Supervisors
Superior Court
Los Altos Hills Council
San Jose Council
Water District
Open Space Authority
Ballot measures

Alameda County
Board of Supervisors
Board of Education
Ballot measures

San Mateo County
Board of Supervisors
Half Moon Bay Council
Ballot measures

Santa Cruz County
Board of Supervisors
District Attorney
Superior Court
Ballot measures

San Benito County
Board of Supervisors
Superior Court
Board of Education

How to use Pollstar ballot machine

Are we there yet? An explanation of the primary process

Politics & Government on Mercury Center

Campaign 2000 at RealCities

California Secretary of State voter information
California Voter Foundation's nonpartisan guide
League of Women Voters' nonpartisan guide
Rough and Tumble, a daily snapshot on California politics

Alameda County
Monterey County
San Benito County
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz County



Posted at 2:01 p.m. PST Friday, February 18, 2000


Primary is a mother lode

Candidates mine state for delegate haul

Mercury News Washington Bureau

Other candidates in the presidential race


California has been waiting years for this -- presidential primaries that actually matter.

Not since 1964 for the Republicans and 1972 for the Democrats has California's huge bundle of convention delegates counted for much in determining their parties' nominees. By the time the campaigns rolled into Silicon Valley and the rest of the state every June, the nominees were already a foregone conclusion. California voters usually had just the ceremonial role of officially putting a candidate's delegate count over the top.

But, fed up with years of inconsequence, the state Legislature moved the 2000 primary up three months to March 7. Suddenly, California's contest sat looming large on the political horizon, just a month after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

California's haul of delegates -- 16 percent of what's needed to capture the Republican nomination, 20 percent of what's needed for the Democratic -- would be distributed when they had maximum impact.

When the early front-runners in the presidential races -- Vice President Al Gore for the Democrats and Texas Gov. George W. Bush for the Republicans -- failed to follow their Iowa caucus victories with knockout blows to their main opponents in New Hampshire, California became even more important.

The campaigns come into California as largely two-man races. On the Democratic side, there are Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley. For the Republicans, an eight-person field has been whittled to three, Bush, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former diplomat Alan Keyes. But Keyes has yet to win a primary and is far behind in national and state polls, creating a two-man race between Bush and McCain.

Two things complicate California's role. First, 15 other states will hold their primaries on March 7, many moving up so as not to be made insignificant by California's move. Among those are large states like New York, Massachusetts, Ohio and Missouri, creating what amounts to almost a national primary, and preventing the candidates from focusing all their energies on California. The glut of March 7 primaries has stolen the name Super Tuesday from the traditional slew of primaries in Southern states, held this year on March 14.

Second, this will be the first presidential primary under California's new open primary system. That system, enacted by a ballot initiative in 1996, lumps candidates from all parties onto one ballot, allowing any voters to cast their ballots for whomever they choose, regardless of the voter's registration and the candidate's party affiliation. In the past, only registered Democrats could vote in the Democratic primary, and the same with Republicans. Registered voters who declined to list a party affiliation -- so-called independents -- were shut out.

But national party rules state that only registered party members can select the nominees, meaning only those votes on March 7 in California will be counted for the allocation of delegates. As the registration deadline approached earlier this month, McCain's campaign urged independents -- a key component of his backing -- to re-register as Republicans so their votes would count.

Much more is at stake in the Republican primary, where the winner gets all the delegates. The Democrats allocate theirs proportionally, based on which candidate wins in each of the state's 52 congressional districts.

Bush, the son of former president George Bush, entered the race last year to much fanfare and proceeded to break all fundraising records, hauling in $68 million in campaign contributions. In 1998, Bush was elected to his second-term as governor of Texas, where he has had a track record of working across party lines and appealing to the state's large Latino population. Republican party leaders, and many rank-and-file members, viewed Bush and his ``compassionate conservatism'' message as just what they needed to retake the White House.

In contrast, McCain has had a history as a maverick and outsider in his own party. A decorated war hero who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain is now serving his third term in the Senate, where he often has angered fellow Republicans. His push for campaign finance reform -- a centerpiece of his campaign -- has been opposed by party leaders.

Both he and Bush are urging tax cuts. But Bush's proposal is much larger. McCain wants to use more of the budget surplus for Social Security and Medicare. Both candidates support free trade, but have been critical of the Clinton administration's handling of foreign policy. On social issues, both oppose abortion and gun control.

Keyes is running his campaign largely on social issues. He is ardently opposed to abortion. He wants to abolish the current income tax system in favor of a combination of sales taxes and tariffs and duties on foreign goods.

On the Democratic side, Gore comes in with two victories under his belt, though his win in New Hampshire was by only four percentage points -- the narrowest margin ever for a Democrat in New Hampshire. Still, Bradley is desperately in need of a win in California, where he has had surprising fundraising success.

The former college and professional basketball star, who served 18 years in the Senate from New Jersey, has cultivated connections he made during a year as a lecturer at Stanford University in 1997-98 to raise more money than Gore in Silicon Valley.

Bradley has sought to portray himself as the candidate of big ideas, proposing an ambitious health care program that would offer coverage to all Americans. He also is a strong proponent of abortion rights and favors stringent gun control, proposing that all handgun owners be licensed.

Gore also favors abortion, but has more moderate positions on gun control and health care. Claiming to be the best bet for extending the economic prosperity of the Clinton administration, the two-term vice president has a less costly health care proposal that would seek to cover all children. He also wants registration of all new handgun purchases.


Published February 20, 2000

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