More than two-dozen Democratic White House bids by westerners have been launched since 1972 – all came up short of receiving the party’s nod

Despite the high national profile he curated this cycle – including a debate on FOX News with then-Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis – it appears it was mere speculation that California Governor Gavin Newsom (pictured) was poised to jump into the Democratic race to ‘replace’ President Joe Biden.

Should the Biden campaign see its way to the finish line at the DNC this August, 2024 will mark the 44th consecutive election cycle in which a westerner was not nominated to head the Democratic presidential ticket since the first western state voted in a presidential race (California, 1852).

Prior to California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris winning the vice-presidential nomination in 2020, the Democrats had gone 42 cycles without nominating a westerner to either the presidential or vice-presidential slots.

In the post-1972 primary era there have been more than two-dozen westerners who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination including an astounding nine in 2020: Harris, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (California), author Marianne Williamson (California), former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (California by way of Alaska), Governor John Hickenlooper (Colorado), U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Colorado), U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Governor Steve Bullock (Montana), and Governor Jay Inslee (Washington),

Williamson added her name to that tally again in 2024 when she launched a second bid last March, but has been languishing in a distant second in Democratic horse race polling behind Biden, usually in the single digits. Robert Kennedy, Jr., also from California, also ran as a Democrat for just over six months before switching to an independent bid last October.

The most notable Democratic presidential campaigns by westerners during the modern primary era begins with Washington U.S. Senator Scoop Jackson who came in second in balloting behind George McGovern with 525 delegates.

In 1976, Arizona U.S. Representative Mo Udall and California Governor Jerry Brown placed second and third at the DNC with 330 and 301 convention votes respectively.

In 1984, Colorado U.S. Senator Gary Hart won several primaries and finished second at the DNC with 1,201 delegates.

Brown, who had also run for president in 1980, came in second in the 1992 race for the Democratic nomination with 596 delegates.

Other Democratic presidential campaigns by westerners that made much smaller footprints during this period include Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty in 1972, Hawaii U.S. Representative Patsy Mink in 1972, Scoop Jackson again in 1976, California U.S. Senator Alan Cranston in 1984, former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt in 1988, Gary Hart again in 1988, former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran in 1992, the aforementioned Mike Gravel in 2008, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in 2008.

The furthest West Democrats have ventured to select a presidential nominee are Plains state politicians William Jennings Bryan (Nebraska, 1896, 1900, 1908) and George McGovern (South Dakota, 1972) and southerner Lyndon Johnson (Texas, 1964).

Republicans have nominated westerners for president many times beginning with former California Senator John Frémont in 1856 and most recently Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain in 2008. [With Mitt Romney in 2012 generally assigned to Massachusetts at that time, not his current home state of Utah].

The number of Electoral College votes from the nation’s 13 western states will increase from 128 in 2020 to 130 this cycle, accounting for 24.2 percent of the pie.

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1 Comment

  1. Cecil Crusher on February 2, 2024 at 3:14 pm

    Prior to Harris, a couple of prominent _Democratic officeholders_ with legal residences in the West were nominated for vice president – albeit on non-major party tickets (Senators Glen Hearst Taylor of ID in 1948 and Burton Kendall Wheeler of MT in 1924).

    As a result of its ascendancy throughout the section (at least one State had gone for the party continuously from 1988) the Democrats seem destined(!) to nominate ‘Westerners’ for either or even both positions in the near future (Newsom?! LA Mayor Bass? Representatives Peltola and Schiff, should each win her or his respective statewide bids?).

    While departing Senator Romney rightfully ought not be “assigned” as a Westerner (aside from the 2012 MA residence, he is a native of MI), fellow Senators John Forbes Kerry and Barack Hussein Obama at least merit mentions with regard to ‘Democrats and the West’, having been _born_ in CO and HI!

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