By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
…and anyone else looking at entering the 2014 race for governor…and anyone looking to convince one or another candidate to drop out of the race to avoid a messy primary.
Earlier today, Tom Prezelski and Bob Lord, two of the contributors to Blog for Arizona, wrote "open letters" to State Rep. Chad Campbell. Tom urged Campbell to drop out of the race, while Bob didn't go that far, instead suggesting that Campbell examine his motives for running, and possibly reevaluate his candidacy.
Time for a bit of a contrarian view.
Dear Chad and Fred,
I know, like, and respect you both.
I firmly believe that either of you will make a fine candidate for governor and a good governor of the state of Arizona, and certainly a better one than anyone who can get through the Republican primary.
Don't get too excited – I think that a mop in a janitor's closet in the basement of the Executive Tower would do a better job than any of the likely Republican candidates. The mop wouldn't do a *good* job – it wouldn't do much of anything at all. However, by the same token, it wouldn't set out to do a *bad* job, either. Which places it head and shoulders above any of the Rs…but I digress…
I also believe that both of you, and/or anyone else who may jump into the race, *need* a contested primary, against a serious and capable opponent.
Fred, you are an intelligent and accomplished man with a long record of public service. And, so far as I can tell, you've run for office once many years ago (Congress, 2002) and it wasn't statewide.
Chad, you are an intelligent man who has done some incredible work in the legislature. And so far as I can tell, you've only run for office in a relatively small and Democratic-leaning district in Phoenix.
Running for a statewide office will be outside of the experience of both of you, and clearing the primary field will only serve to put the beginning point of the learning curve for that at the start of the general election season.
Given that there will be five or six weeks between the end of primary election voting and the beginning of early voting in the general election, that's not the place to start learning how to be an effective candidate for high office.
A robust primary is the place for that learning process.
Witness two examples –
In 2006, Jim Pederson ran for the US Senate seat held by Jon Kyl. A good man and an effective businessman, like Fred, he had never run for office before. As a former chair of the ADP, many party insiders worked to clear the primary field for him, and it showed. At the start of the general election campaign he was painful to watch on the stump. To be sure, he learned, and learned quickly. By the time the GOTV push came around during the last weekend before the election, he was far more relaxed in front of crowds. However, by then it was far too late.
He got smoked in the general election by Kyl.
On the other hand, in 2012, Kyrsten Sinema ran for Congress. Like Chad, she had run for office before (and also like Chad, won), but only in a Democratic-leaning legislative district. The 2012 primary that she won was a robust one (OK. It was probably the most rugged seen by AZ Dems in recent memory, but compared to some of the D primaries in Massachusetts, where I grew up, it was no worse than one of the neighborhood games of tag that we played as kids).
She emerged from that primary as a strong and toughened candidate who hit the general election ground running, and ran right over the Republican nominee in the race.
There are a number of Arizona Democrats, many of whom I respect and some of whom I count as friends, who always work to avoid primaries. Too "messy", or something like that.
I think that they, and candidates who go along with that line of thinking, are doing the people of Arizona in general, and Arizona Democrats and Independents in particular, a supreme disservice.
Primaries, uncomfortable though they may be for some people, toughen candidates for their general election races and also raise the public profiles of those candidates.
As things stand right now, even the worst Republican candidate goes into any general election race with advantages that go beyond a voter registration advantage. Their primary battles generate public interest and media coverage for their candidates, and their candidates start the general election season already at full campaign speed while generally facing opponents who are still gearing up for the real race.
Instead of clearing the field for a single candidate, party activists, grassroots and establishment alike, should encourage the candidates to run in, not to get out of, races.
Chad, Fred, and anyone else who gets in the race – instead of reaching out to contacts within the party who might help convince one of the other candidates to step aside, focus on reaching out to Democrats (and Independents) who will vote for you not only in the primary but in the general.
Oh, and while the primary campaign should be "robust" and energetic, it should also be fairly clean. Regardless of who wins the primary, the victor will need the general election support of the runner-up's supporters.
Just a few things to keep in mind.