Seven Democratic presidential hopefuls will square off tonight in Los Angeles, marking the candidates' first formal debate in California, and likely the best opportunity to hear them discuss issues pertinent to voters in the nation's most populous state.
And in this presidential primary, the stakes here are actually high.
Two years ago, frustrated by always being in the shadow of Iowa and New Hampshire, California moved up the state’s presidential primary from June to March, with the goal of strengthening the influence of the state's 20 million registered voters.
"We are one in eight voters in the country," says Kim Alexander, founder and president of the California Voter Foundation. "So we do want California to have a say."
The way Alexander sees it, it's now or never to have an impact, given that California is certainly not one of the handful of swing states that grab all the attention leading up to the general election in November.
"If we want Californians to have a voice in deciding who the president is, we really have to focus on the primary," she said.
Encouraging candidates to address issues with special resonance in California was another major reason for moving up the presidential primary.
Alexander, for one, wants to hear more discussion among candidates about the distinct link between climate change and homelessness in California.
"You know, how they're going to address the climate crisis, how they're going to address climate refugees, which we have right here in California every time there's a wildfire," she said.
For his part, former Gov. Jerry Brown is critical of the way the media and the candidates have thus far focused on a relatively narrow set of issues. Even their different approaches to health care seem relatively minor to him, compared to what he considers the bigger issues at stake. (full story)