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Calif. Moves Up 2000 Primary Date

September 28, 1998

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill Monday that pushes up the state’s presidential primary to the earliest possible date _ March 7, 2000 _ in an attempt to give California more clout in the presidential selection process.

The bill moves the date of California’s primary to the first Tuesday in March, which would be about a week after New Hampshire’s traditionally first-in-the-nation primary in presidential election years. The precinct caucuses in Iowa are even earlier.

``California voters are finally going to have some clout in deciding who the major parties nominate for president,″ Wilson said.

California is the most populous states, with 33 million people, and its economy ranks as the seventh-largest in the world. Yet, California primaries in recent years have typically taken place in June, long after the nominations are sealed up.

At least nine other states, including New York and several New England states, also want to hold primaries on the first possible primary day recognized by the Democratic Party. The party makes an exception for New Hampshire’s primary, which is always first. The Republican Party doesn’t have a similar rule.

Wilson, a Republican who is contemplating a presidential run in 2000, wouldn’t comment on whether he plans to use the early primary for his own White House aspirations.

Wilson spokesman Sean Walsh said Wilson is unlikely to decide on his political future before his second term ends in January.

Proponents of the early primary have said that presidential candidates come to California early and often to raise money, but because of the state’s late primary, have not been forced to take up California issues.

Other states have been worried about California moving up its primary, knowing it will diminish the attention they get from presidential candidates.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday criticized California’s move as a ``disaster for the traditional presidential primary process as we’ve known it.″

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