California Secretary of State Debra Bowen was a somewhat orphaned figure in the spin room at the Kodak Theater following tonight's Democratic debate. The reason: Bowen, as the state's chief elections official, has remained neutral in the campaign.
She learned that lesson, she said, from former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, whose impartiality as a supporter of President Bush was questioned during the tense recount of that state's presidential vote in 2000.
Besides, Bowen has plenty else on her mind going into Tuesday's election. Specifically, making certain that things go smoothly.
She is not estimating what the turnout will be, but notes anecdotal evidence that voters are unusually engaged in a primary election.
"I just keep reminding people that it's most important to have the results correct," she told me.
Many absentee voters appear to be holding on to their ballots an unusually long time, she said. If they drop off their ballots at polling places on Tuesday, those ballots won't be counted for days.
I pointed out such delays could make news reporters very grouchy.
"If we're slow, you're going to be grouchy for a few days," Bowen said. "If we're wrong, you'll never forgive us."