Tag Archives: Ted Downing

Can an Independent candidate win in Tucson?

Can an Independent candidate win in a Tucson City Council race?  For the first time in a long time, an Independent (Gary  Watson in Ward 3) is running for political office in Tucson.  Having reported for Tucsoncitizen.com for 4.5 years and here at Blogforarizona.net for 3.5 years, I’m trying to recall when Independents have run or been in political office.

Former Republican Pima County Supervisor Ed Moore ran for re-election in Nov. 1996 as an Independent, and lost to newcomer Democrat Sharon Bronson.  Tucson City Council member Carol West was a long time Democrat and changed to Independent, then did not seek re-election in 2007.   Former Republican Gene Chewning ran for AZ House in LD 27 in 2010 as an Independent and lost, as did former Dem AZ House Representative Ted Downing in LD 28 State Senate race. And didn’t Green Party candidate Dave Ewoldt also run as an Independent for State Senator in LD 28, to get onto the 2010 General Election ballot?  They both lost to the Democrat incumbent Senator.

So, no Independent candidate has run and won  in Tucson (as far as I know). Chewning told me after his 2010 loss, that because he ran as an Independent, he no longer had a party structure to assist in his campaigning. He got a lot more votes as a Republican for the same LD 27 House race in 2006.

Firefighter /Captain of a Northwest fire station Gary Watson (I, former Republican) said at a recent AZ Independents forum at Murphy-Wilmot library that he was “not R enough for the Republican Party”, and “not D enough for the Democratic Party”.

Gary Watson

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Will the Open Primaries initiative be on the Nov 2012 ballot or not? (video)

by Pamela Powers Hannley

Backers of the Open Primaries initiative knew from the beginning that changing Arizona's two-party primary system to an open, "top two" primary system wouldn't be easy. They expected challenges from Democrats and Republicans, and that's what they got.

Earlier in the summer, Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona Legislature tinkered around with ideas to change or stop it. Secretary of State Ken Bennett tried to stop it by saying that it was unconsitutionally broad, but the courts squashed his attack. 

As of mid-August, Open Primaries was back on the ballot, until this week, when Maricopa County said that there were an extraordinary number of bad signatures.

The latest news is that the Open Primaries/Open Government folks have filed a suit to get the initiative back on the ballot. Supporters claim that Maricopa County erroneously rejected.

Stay tuned for the next volley in this ping pong game.

For more background on the Open Primaries initiative– just in case you actually get to vote on it– check out the video debate between former State Rep. Dr. Ted Downing (pro) and former Mayor Tom Volgy (con). The event was sponsored by Progressive Democrats of American Tucson Chapter.

Videos after the jump.



During the rebuttal period, Downing said that Volgy's talk was all about "parties" and what the parties will do if the initiative passes– not about "people". Downing said he is more concerned about how the initiative will benefit people. 

PDA open primaries debate: Emotion vs Facts

Volgy889-sm72 by Pamela Powers Hannley

More than 60 Southern Arizonans turned out last night to hear two UA profs politely duked out the open primaries question in a debate sponsored by the Progressive Democrats of American (PDA) Tucson Chapter

Before an attentive crowd, former State Representative (and self-proclaimed recovering politician) Ted Downing (below) argued for open primaries. Speaking against was former Tucson mayor Tom Volgy (above).

Each speaker was given 15 minutes to make his case, followed by one five-minute rebuttal each and questions supplied by the audience. 

Both men conducted themselves in a professional manner but politely disagreed. Downing thoroughly explained the open primaries initiative, how the process would work, and why it is important. Volgy, on the other hand, relied on the emotional appeal. Volgy repeatedly called open primaries "non-partisan" (which they're not since candidates can add a party label next to their names); warned of the impending flood of Republican money from the north which would destroy life as we know it down here in Baja Arizona; and tried to scare the audience with examples of low voter turnout in Maricopa County elections that are non-partisan. (Since Volgy tossed around the non-partisan label freely, I'm not sure if the Maricopa elections are truly non-partisan– no party labels at all– or if the party labels are optional.)

Downing888-sm72Both men agreed that our political system needs reform, that big money is a corrupting influence, and that fighting against Citizens United is imperative. Volgy said that fight should be won before we tinker with an experimental system like open primaries. Downing said that Arizona should continue along the American tradition of broadening the electorate– pointing out that originally only landed white men could voted, then unlanded men were added to voting rolls, then black men, then women, then 18-20 year-olds. 

One of the biggest differences between them was on the question of disenfranchisement of voters. Currently in Arizona about one-third of voters are registered as Independent (ie, no party); nationwide, according to Downing, 40% of voters are registered as Independent. Downing made a strong case that those voters have a lesser voice in government because they don't belong to one of the two major parties. Volgy skirted the disenfranchisement question until he was directly asked about it by a member of the audience. He agreed that it was more of a hassle for Independents to vote in the primary, since they have to choose a party and request a ballot, but they are allowed to vote. In the presidential race, Volgy said Independent voters will be courted by both major parties.

The attendees voted before and after the debate. Before the debate, the audience was more or less split evenly on the question, with a large number of "undecided" voters. After the debate, the "no" side of the question had swayed more voters than the "yes" side, and there were far fewer "undecided". 

The Open Elections/Open Government group is gathering signatures to put the open primaries initiative on the November 2012 ballot. Under the current system, Republicans and Democrats hold separate party primaries (funded by taxpayers) to elect their candidates. Democrats vote in the Democratic Primary; Republicans vote in the Republican Primary; and Independents must request one ballot or the other. One winner from each party then competes in the general election.

Under the top-two primary system, all primary candidates–- regardless of party affiliation–- participate in the same primary, and anyone can vote for anybody– no party restrictions. The open primaries initiative is not the same as "non-partisan" or "no labels" because candidates can choose to identify themselves by party on the ballot (ie, "registered as Democrat," registered as Green," etc.) The top-two vote-getters–- regardless of party– compete in the General Election. The open primaries system, if adopted, would apply to all primary elections in Arizona– except US president.

As the election draws nearer, we will undoubtedly hear more about the open primaries question. Stay tuned.