California GOP Overhauls Primary Rules, Likely Giving Trump An Advantage
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Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

The California Republican Party changed the way its primary operates on Saturday after its executive committee approved a plan widely considered to benefit former President Donald Trump as he seeks the 2024 GOP nomination. 

The rule change, reportedly backed by the Trump campaign, will change how delegates are allocated to candidates for the state’s primary contest. Critics argue the change could discourage other candidates from campaigning in the state, while proponents say the move will draw them in. 

“Today’s vote … was a massive victory for California Republicans who are eager to have a say in deciding who our Party’s 2024 presidential nominee will be,” Jessica Millan Patterson, the state party chair, said in a statement. 

Under the new rule, any Republican candidate who receives more than 50% of the vote will receive all of California’s delegates — 169 in total, more than any other state, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, if no candidate reaches 50%, state delegates will be allocated proportionally based on how candidates performed in the statewide vote. The executive committee approved the rule in a 53-16 vote. 

The move will likely benefit former President Trump, who consistently polls at or above 50% in the state for the primary contest. According to one unnamed executive committee member who spoke with a Trump campaign official, the former president’s campaign supported the plan because of his strong polling in the state, the L.A. Times reported.

Ken Cuccinelli, founder of the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC, blasted the new delegate allocation rule, calling it “asinine” and saying it doesn’t reflect the “will of or benefit voters in any state.” 

“Smoke-filled back rooms do not reflect the will of or benefit voters in any state,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “Yet across the country games are afoot to enhance the potential outcome of primary elections for one former president who half of the Republican electorate no longer wants as the party leader.”

Previously, three state delegates were awarded for each congressional district a candidate won. This system encouraged candidates to compete in specific geographic areas rather than the entire state. Jon Fleischman, director of the California GOP when this rule was adopted over two decades ago, told the L.A. Times that candidates don’t have an incentive campaign in the state under the new rules.

“The cost to advertise statewide is too great and the impact of trying to motivate volunteers is too small. So they will go to other states and ignore California in the primary, as they ignore California in the general election,” Fleischman said. 


According to California GOP, the rules already on the books were not “in compliance” with the Republican National Convention’s rules, and if they failed to overhaul its delegate allocation process, it would have lost half of its delegates. While a heavily Democratic state, California’s large delegate count could play a significant role in choosing the Republican presidential nominee. 

California Republicans will head to the polls on Super Tuesday, March 5, to vote for their preferred candidate. 

“I am grateful to the many CAGOP delegates who engaged in our Party’s rules change process, provided insightful feedback and debated the merits of the change to make sure that our Party landed on the best solution for all California Republicans,” Patterson said. “Together, we will help the Republican Party select the candidate who can take back the White House and retire President Biden next November.”

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