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Washington state angles for relevance in 2020 presidential election

King County ballots. (AP)

Washington politicians have made a concerted effort in recent months to increase the state’s standing in the 2020 presidential primaries, from tweaking its voting process, to a recent push for a presidential debate in Seattle.

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“Presidential candidates … come and visit our state for donations, let’s have them come and speak with our voters,” State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski told KIRO Radio.

That message has been the calling card behind a handful of moves enacted by state politicians in recent months. In March, a bipartisan group of legislators in Olympia voted to move Washington’s presidential primary date up in 2020.

Whereas before, the state’s voters had to wait until May, that date has now been moved all the way up to March 10. That vaults it ahead of 16 scheduled primaries in 2020, and just one week after Super Tuesday.

“It will make our state more attractive to candidates to show up here and campaign — that’s very important as we set the standard for the rest of the country, and so our presidential candidates ought to be paying attention to that,” Republican State Sen. Hans Zeiger said back in January, when the legislation was proposed.

Shortly after that, the state’s Democratic Party voted to end its use of caucuses to allocate delegates to candidates, and instead opted for a straight primary vote in 2020. The caucus will remain in a lesser capacity, to decide which specific delegates are sent as representatives to the Democratic Convention.

According to data collected by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the 2016 election saw markedly lower turnouts for states that caucused, versus states that held a simple primary vote. More specifically, the top 20 states with the best voter turnout were all primary states.

Now, state Democrats are making a push to bring one of up to 12 Democratic primary debates to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, following a letter penned by Podlodowski, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and the Seattle Theatre Group.

“We have all sorts of voters in Washington state, so it’s a tremendous opportunity to deal with a variety of issues from agriculture, to innovation, to housing issues,” said Podlodowski.

The state party currently has a petition active on its website, where it calls for bringing the third Democratic presidential debate to Washington. The first debate will be in Florida; the second will take place in Michigan.

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