Republican leaders in California are in a panic that Donald Trump's continuing refusal to make his tax returns public could cost the party what few seats they hold in a state that has few GOP officeholders to begin with.
According to a report from Politico, should a bill Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed that forces gubernatorial and presidential candidates to release financial information and their tax returns in order to be on the ballot be upheld by the courts, it could cripple the hopes of Republican office-seekers.
The report notes that Trump's absence on the primary ballot in what is expected to be a high-turnout election could depress turnout which, in turn, would affect Republicans who are on the ballot.
At issue is California's primary system that places the top two vote-getters on the general election ballot regardless of party. As has been the case in elections since the rules were changed in 2010, voters were given a choice between two Democratic candidates in a state that has seen the GOP virtually disappear as a political force.
This has newly elected Republican Party Chair Jessica Patterson in a panic.
“We all know that the top of the ticket generally dictates the turnout,” she explained to POLITICO. “If the Democrats have a huge intensity — which they likely will, because our primary is so early — and Republicans don’t have their likely nominee to turn out to vote for, this could really affect our legislative and congressional races, where two Democrats could end up in the general.”
Noting that, even if Donald Trump was on the ticket he would have virtually zero chance of landing California's 55 electoral votes, Republicans are still dismayed that the new bill will cripple any chance of a comeback in the state.
"Even if it clears the courts, the measure is unlikely to have much effect on the presidential contest, given Trump’s radioactivity for much of the California electorate," Politico reports. "But there are competitive state legislative and congressional races across the state. Patterson said the law appears to directly try to engineer outcomes favorable to Democrats by applying to primary elections in which Republicans can fall outside the top two if they suffer low turnout."
With Patterson complaining that it looks like Democrats pushed through the tax return bill specifically to hurt all Republicans, a Democratic lawmaker pushed back at the accusation.
"State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), the bill’s author, rejected Patterson’s claim as 'blatantly false,' countering that the law applies to both parties and gives Trump a route to the ballot," Politico reports. "Four Democratic presidential candidates would currently not be eligible to make California’s primary ballots, McGuire noted. 'This is about equal opportunity transparency,' McGuire said."
“This does have enough potential impact that it could impact primaries by boxing out a Republican here and there,” political consultant Paul Mitchell said, adding GOP voters may elect to “boycott” the primary in protest.
“It’s like drawing to an inside straight, but it’s a not-trivial likelihood,” he added.
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