GOP chair paints Top Two Primary and anti-Dark Money initiatives as the work of dirty hippies


Robert Graham
Robert Graham

Per AZGOP Chair Robert Graham in the AZ Capitol Times:

The Arizona Capitol Times recently reported the same people behind the failed jungle primary initiative in 2012 plan on taking another run at it in 2016. Only this time jungle primary supporters intend to team up with another group of liberals pushing an aggressive regulatory agenda designed to relieve Arizonans of our free speech rights—all under the guise of eliminating so-called dark money.

Ouch! That’s bound to leave a mark on the carefully-crafted “we’re so above the extremists on both sides!” image of the Open Primaries people. Graham’s oped is clearly signalling how conservatives plan to defeat both Top Two primaries and Terry Goddard’s Dark Money initiative – by painting both as acts of desperation by sore loser leftists.

No, really, Graham says so (though he admits the two measures are unrelated):

The supporters pushing this initiative are losing candidates who have proven incapable of winning elections in Arizona. Paul Johnson and Terry Goddard, the two people behind the jungle primary and the attack on free speech, have a combined staggering six losses in statewide races.

When politicians lose races, it is easy to make excuses and complain. It is apparently tougher to take a hard look at oneself. Has it ever occurred to these people that the reason they keep losing is that they are simply far too liberal for Arizona voters? Of course not. Paul Johnson lost his most recent run for governor by a 61-35 margin. Please don’t believe his claims that the primary elections system makes it hard for “moderates” like him to win—he’s about as “moderate” as his liberal comrade Bernie Sanders. And that’s the real reason he keeps losing, whether he is running as a candidate or pushing some harebrained electoral scheme.

The reality is that the jungle primary is simply a way for losing candidates to try to put their thumb on the scale of the Arizona election system so they might have a better chance of winning. The impending marriage with the anti-dark money forces is an awkward one to say the least, as the two have nothing to do with each other. Though the jungle primary supporters crow that it makes their measure stronger, it looks more like an act of desperation to revive a discredited measure that failed so badly a mere three years ago.

I don’t know Paul Johnson personally and he was Mayor of Phoenix before I moved here and I barely remember the 1998 Governor’s race he lost shortly after I arrived. My only interactions with him have been arguments online about Top Two primaries, which I oppose. I have also tangled with Paul’s son Justin Johnson, former legislative and Phoenix City Council candidate, a time or two. Johnson the father is now an independent while the son remains a Democrat. While both are proudly centrist and I’m a big, honking liberal, I would not characterize either as being akin to Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz, despite whatever policy and tactical disagreements I may have with them.

But Robert Graham unhesitatingly likens Paul Johnson (and all other supporters of Open Primaries by association) to Bernie Sanders. Coincidentally, that reminds me of how Justin Johnson told me that I was the left wing version of a Tea Party member on Facebook recently. I responded that it was an odd way to describe me since I have no stances that are a left mirror-image of climate change and evolution denial or taking Medicaid away from millions of people, as the Tea Party has actually done. Undeterred, Justin informed me that my left-wing Tea Party equivalence was a “state of mind”.

Sure it is. That’s why the Open Primaries campaign is leaning hard on Arizona Democrats to help them get their initiative passed, despite their public contempt for “partisans”. They obviously know that both parties are demonstrably not the same. Unfortunately for them, the strategy of denigrating both parties while enlisting one of them in their cause was bound to be called out, especially when the party they’re conscripting into their effort is the dreaded “liberal” one. Terry Goddard’s Dark Money initiative can possibly withstand the “liberal” label because voters of all stripes hate dark money in elections but I’m skeptical that enough non-liberal Arizona voters are sufficiently exercised about partisan primaries to overcome that stain. That’s assuming that Open Primaries could count on solid Democratic base support as Goddard can with Dark Money, which is doubtful.