What Boxer’s Retirement Means; An “SEC” Primary?

At the end of 2014, California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) provided strong hints that she would not seek a fifth term in 2016. Yesterday, she made that decision official. In a video hosted by her grandson, Sen. Boxer announced that she will not be a candidate for the Senate next year, thus ending what will be a 34-year-career in Congress.

The succeeding election now marks the first time since Boxer originally won in 1992 that California will host an open US Senate campaign. A plethora of Democrats are expected to enter the statewide fray. The most interesting dynamic will be the interplay between political allies Gavin Newsom, the state’s lieutenant governor, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris. It would be surprising to see the two close colleagues challenge each other, but stranger things have happened in politics. It is also possible that neither will run. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is apparently not giving serious consideration to the Senate race. One potential major contender who is seriously looking at becoming a candidate is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Another mayor drawing attention is Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson, a former NBA professional basketball player.

In the House delegation, representatives John Garamendi (D-CA-3), a former lieutenant governor and state insurance commissioner, Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA-36) have been mentioned as possible Senate candidates.

Republicans are an after-thought in this state, so little speculation abounds for what will likely be an expensive suicide run. California’s jungle top-two nominating system means that two Democrats could conceivably advance to the general election. Sen. Boxer is the first of the 2016 in-cycle incumbents to make a retirement announcement.

The “SEC” Primary

In what is beginning to be termed the “SEC Primary”, five southern states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas), whose major universities are all members of the Southeastern Conference for college sports, are making moves to join together to hold their respective nomination processes simultaneously on March 1, 2016. There is some chance that Florida and Texas will join them.

Should that happen, the day likely would be singly important on the Republican presidential nomination campaign calendar. If all seven states were to vote on March 1, 2016, featuring the biggest of the GOP Winner-Take-All states (Florida: 98 delegates), the day would go a long way toward determining 505 delegates, or 21 percent of the entire national Republican allotment. For Democrats, the combined states would carry 808 delegates, or 17.9 percent of their national total.

The first four critical presidential nomination states also have tentative 2016 schedules. The Iowa Caucus, according to Democratic Party rules, appears targeted for Feb. 1. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary would follow on Feb. 9; the Nevada Caucus is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 20; with the South Carolina primary coming on Feb. 27.

The Republicans have yet to be as specific as the Democrats, and of course the states themselves have to finally set the schedule, but the dates outlined above seem reasonable.

Though Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina set the trend for the nomination process, the states are quite small, as we know. The aggregate delegate total among the four is 186 for the Democrats, while they present 124 for the Republican race. These figures represent only 4.1 percent of the total national Democratic delegate allotment and 5.1 percent of the Republican sum. But, in terms of momentum and media attention, these states are worth far more than their limited delegate assignments.

With former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and ex-Arkansas governor and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee all making discernible moves this week to organize a 2016 campaign, the race will soon be upon us.

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