Bernie Sanders Wins Democratic Presidential Primary in California

Bernie Sanders_Speech Vermont - Getty - H 2020
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The Vermont senator has also claimed decisive victories in his home state of Vermont, Utah and Colorado.

Bernie Sanders took Super Tuesday's biggest prize on Tuesday, winning California on a night he was seeking to blunt the momentum of a suddenly surging Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

California was one of 14 states that voted, but its more than 400 delegates are the most at stake. It remains unclear how many delegates Sanders will claim from California, given the state's complicated process for awarding them won't be sorted out for days as it continues to count late arriving mail-in ballots.

In early returns, Sanders led with 27 percent of the vote. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was second with 19 percent, while Biden was third with 17 percent and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was fourth with 11 percent.

The vote comes a day after Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg united behind Biden as party moderates look to halt the ascent of democratic socialist Sanders, the leading candidate after contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

At a Sacramento polling station Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to say who he voted for but said recent endorsements for Biden are a “huge boost” to the former vice president.

“That was about as significant a night that you could have in politics before a major primary,” he said about Klobuchar and Buttigieg quitting the race and joining Biden on Monday in Dallas. Newsom predicted Biden's momentum may drive more voters to the polls and that results will be “very clarifying” for the state of the race.

President Donald Trump, who lost California by over 4 million votes in 2016, faced only token opposition. Meanwhile, a series of contested U.S. House districts are on the ballot that could play into control of Congress in November.

Arguably, no candidate had more at stake in California than Sanders, the Vermont senator whose campaign has long seen the nation’s most populous state as a critical early contest and has had droves of volunteers organizing events across the state.

Sanders was on the California presidential ballot four years ago, when he picked up 46 percent of the vote in a losing effort against Hillary Clinton. He needed a comeback as a capstone moment for the state’s progressive wing, and a string of recent polls have shown him with an advantage over his remaining rivals.

Another recent exit from the race was California billionaire Tom Steyer, who dropped out Saturday. Anyone who already voted for Klobuchar, Buttigieg or Steyer can’t change their vote.

State election rules intended to increase participation make it likely that ballot-counting could continue for weeks in close contests.

Four years ago, many Sanders supporters were dejected after his defeat and suspicious of an election process they believe tilted unfairly to Clinton. But his volunteer corps regrouped, and a candidate once considered on the political fringe has this year accumulated more delegates than any other Democrat so far.

On supporters of Sanders seeing the Democratic establishment trying to thwart the progressive candidate, Newsom said “it’s the nature of the process.” But he said the party will unify as before in November.

California delegates are partly divvied up in what amounts to 53 separate elections in congressional districts. A candidate must win 15 percent of the vote in a district to qualify for at least one delegate.

Sanders has pushed back against suggestions that his agenda is pulling the party too far from the center.

“I don’t think so, I honestly don’t,” the Vermont senator told California Democrats at a convention last year.