SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The chairs of California's Republican and Democratic parties are gearing up for a busy election year, starting with Super Tuesday. At the top of ticket, of course, the race for president. But for both parties it's the smaller, down-ballot races that may end up being more important.
While Democratic presidential candidates criss-cross the Golden State speaking to voters, the state's GOP is confident in President Trump taking on any of them, especially front runner and democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Here in California there is an incredible entrepreneurial spirit," said Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican party. "We are capitalists, and I don’t think [Sanders'] message resonates with people in Orange County, or the people in the Central Valley that the president was trying to help with the water issue last week."
Patterson says the California GOP raised more money in 2019 than in the last two years combined. Their focus is down-ballot races, especially regaining seats in the House of Representatives after the so-called "blue wave" in 2018 turned seven seats Democratic in the midterm election.
“That darkness has been refilled with excitement, and hope, and just the right amount of people being pissed off and ready to get back to work and win back some of those seats," said Patterson.
The California Democratic Party is also hoping to tap into a sense of outrage and passion from its voting block, aiming to seizing not only the presidency but also legislative power from a party whose leader is among the most devisive in history.
“With a president that attempts to demonize and divide, I think we have a lineup of candidates that are speaking to the real bread-and-butter issues that are affecting people’s lives," said Rusty Hicks, chairman of the California Democratic Party.
Hicks said he appreciates seeing several of the presidential candidates visit California and that they understand the issues that matter to voters. He is hoping that Democratic voter energy will carry over to state and local races, so the party can claim a repeat of the 2018 midterms and gain more seats on Capitol Hill.
“Protecting and preserving those are particularly important while we also fight to take back the U.S. Senate, while we fight to take back the White House," said Hicks.
The strategy for both state parties is fairly simple: knock on doors and mobilize voters to get to the polls on Super Tuesday and in November's general election.
Patterson estimates her party has recruited 17,000 new volunteers who are working to turn out GOP voters on March 3.
Data analysts we spoke predict Super Tuesday turnout in California could reach 10 million, or nearly 50% of registered voters.
California operates a "jungle primary" system-- meaning the top two votegetters move on to the general election, so turnout could end up making a big difference in smaller races.
“It’s important that our party motivate and really empower working people, occasional voters, young voters, voters of color to step forward and make their voice heard," said Hicks.