It’s Not Too Soon to Start Preparing for the March Primary

Many important local races could be decided in that election.

PUBLISHED NOV 10, 2023 3:42 P.M.
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Voters have many decisions to weigh before March 5.

Voters have many decisions to weigh before March 5.   Jacob_09

Though 2023 isn’t over yet, another year-long cycle has ended—and a new one has begun. We’re talking about the 2024 election cycle.

Last Tuesday’s election was fairly low-key in the Golden State, but those who follow national politics watched races in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia with great interest—partly as a warm-up for a very big election on Nov. 5, 2024.

But before that happens, we the people will be called to the polls on March 5, 2024, for the California presidential primary election, which includes a number of other important votes. It’s not too early to start thinking about the choices we’ll be making in just three months.

Federal Self-Government

Primary races will take place for the U.S. Senate and Congress—including the hotly contested race to succeed Sen. Laphonza Butler, who is serving the remainder of the late Dianne Feinstein’s term, but will not run for the seat. Across the state more than 40 hopefuls have declared their candidacies, and the filing deadline isn’t until Dec. 8. However, the media spotlight mostly shines on four candidates: three prominent congressional representatives and one former baseball player. The full list of candidates on offers a trove of information on even the most obscure ones, with links to their social media and related websites.

In the congressional primaries, many incumbents will cruise to outright victory in safe districts, but media observers will be monitoring some tossup races, such as these handicapped by the Sacramento Bee. In the 13th Congressional District, John Duarte (R-Modesto) beat former Assemblyman Adam Gray by fewer than 600 votes; in the 22nd Congressional District, David Valadao (R-Hanford) will see a rematch against former Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), who lost by just a 3% margin in 2022.

County Leaderships Up for Grabs

At California Local, we’re more interested in the down-ballot races. In addition to primaries for state legislators, the March election lets voters weigh in on county-level governance.

Each of California’s 58 counties has an elected board of supervisors whose five members set priorities for the county and decide how money is spent on programs that serve the public’s needs. In many counties, three out of five supervisors will be running for reelection. With multiple incumbents bowing out, this means new leadership could reshape governance at the county level.

In Santa Clara County, home to 1.8 million residents, supervisors Cindy Chavez (District 2) and Joe Simitian (District 5) are termed out, leading to crowded races with local pols vying to move up the political ladder—and thousands in campaign contributions rolling in, as reported by San Jose Spotlight.

Santa Cruz County also has two incumbents leaving the field. Lookout Santa Cruz reports three candidates are stepping up to the plate to take a swing at the District 5 seat held by retiring longtime pol Bruce McPherson, and the Pajaronian writes about four hopefuls for the Distrct 2 seat that incumbent Zach Friend is vacating.

El Dorado is another county where two incumbents out of three—Supervisors John Hidahl and Wendy Thomas—are not seeking reelection. Those who follow regional news may remember Hidahl led the board to declare, 4-1, a American Christian Heritage Month but later withdrew it, after a public furor. Candidates are lining up to run in Hidahl’s District 1 and Thomas’s District 3.

Urban Warfare

Some cities will also hold primaries in March, and the heat is already on in the largest municipalities. In Sacramento, all eyes are on the mayoral race, since Darrell Steinberg is not seeking a third term. In Stockton, Mayor Kevin Lincoln—who defeated rising-star politician Michael Tubbs in 2020—is taking a run at Rep. Josh Harder in the 9th Congressional District. That move leaves what Stocktonia describes as a “who’s who of Stockton politics” eyeing the mayoral race.

In San Jose, Mayor Matt Mahan was just elected in 2022 but must run again because the mayoral race will now coincide with the presidential election cycle. Fortunately for Mahan, his opponent in that razor-thin 2022 election—District 2 Supervisor Cindy Chavez—is not stepping into the fray again. But there will still be plenty of drama in the San Jose City Council races, with five seats in contention. And labor activists, who supported Chavez in the mayoral race, are lining up to endorse and support their favorites, reports San Jose Spotlight.

Those are just a few of the races that we’ll be paying attention to in the next three months, and we’ll be working to make it easier for our readers to follow coverage by local media outlets by providing links to election-related stories. To find these stories quickly, go to the News pulldown menu and find “News by Topic.” Then select “Elections and Politics” and you’ll get a list of the most current stories. (Here’s an example from Sacramento County.)

People Power

Why do we spend so much time ferreting out stories on local elections? Because we think voters need as much information as possible to make informed choices. Why are these choices important? Here are three reasons, as articulated by the U.S. Vote Foundation:

  • Local government—our county supervisors and city councilmembers—exerts a greater impact on our daily lives than what goes on in Washington.
  • By participating in local elections, you determine not only who wins in a “small” race but also who will go on to run for other offices. Today’s school board member could be tomorrow’s mayor. By supporting candidates you believe in, you’re helping to build better candidates in the future.
  • When done right, local governance does not need to be driven by partisan politics. Citizens from different political parties can find consensus on such subjects as safe streets, access to outdoor recreation, and quality public service.

In that spirit, we seek to present as much information as possible about county and city elections. We also recommend bookmarking these two sites: is a nonpartisan online guide to federal, state and local races in California. A joint project of the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and MapLight, this website gives voters a rundown on all races that will be on their ballot, and collects statements and information from the candidates themselves.

Another must-see site is, an essential resource for finding out more about your congressional representatives and state legislators, it also provides information on other races.

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