Tag Archives: top two primary

California’s jungle primary could prevent Democrats from taking back the House

Democrats need to retake 24 house seats to take back Congress in November. 7 of those 24 seats are in California, districts currently represented by vulnerable Republicans which voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

You would think, “we’re a third of the way home!,” but you would be wrong.

So-called good government reformers (“goo-goos”) convinced enough Californians to vote for the top two primary aka jungle primary in 2010, in which candidates pretend to run in a non-partisan primary election and the top two vote getters advance to the general election. Their stated goal is that this would result in more moderate or centrist candidates being elected rather than partisan extremists. The results have proven them wrong.

StopTop2For the past two election cycles the Top Two Primary folks tried pushing this nonsense as a ballot measure in Arizona, fully supported by the editorial staff of The Arizona Republic. Luckily these goo-goos failed, and there was not a third attempt this election cycle.

Goo-goos do not understand human behavior, nor can they do math. Motivated by what happened in 2016, there is a plethora of Democratic candidates running in these seven districts on Tuesday, which only splinters the Democratic vote by the number of candidates running. Republicans on the other hand, always tribal in their voting behavior, have the vulnerable incumbent and the odd challenger running, or only a couple of Republicans running in open seat districts.

On Tuesday, despite the heavy Democratic voter advantage in “blue” California, Republicans could very well emerge with both of the top two positions via the top two primary aka jungle primary, and with it the Democrats’ opportunity to take back Congress this November. Democrats’ California conundrum could cost them the House:

One week before the June 5 vote, California Republicans face the near-certainty of failing to advance a candidate to the general election for US Senate, and the risk, though fading, of failing to place a candidate on the November ballot for Governor. Democrats, meanwhile, are terrified that they will be shut out next week in one or more Republican-held US House districts, particularly in suburban Orange County. Party strategists see winning these seats as key steps in their path back to majority control.

Continue reading

California’s ‘Top Two Primary’ (Jungle Primary) on Tuesday is a warning for Arizona

Jonathan Bernstein writes at Bloomberg View about California’s “Top Two Primary” on Tuesday. California’s Election Calamity:

StopTop2California voters are set to vote in their primary on Tuesday, and will suffer the consequences of a serious self-imposed mistake in how they run their state. No, it has nothing to do with the presidential race. The disaster is its “top two” system, in which the candidates for state offices — regardless of party — go on to compete in the general election in November if they finish first and second in the primaries.

The likely perverse result? Voters in November will probably have a choice between two Democrats for an open U.S. Senate seat.

The motivation for the California system was to elevate more moderate politicians than the parties were producing on their own. In practice, at least in the first two election cycles since the change was carried out, the results have not matched reformers’ hopes. Candidates have not been more moderate.

Continue reading

Didn’t see that coming, but it’s not surprising

dark money
Photo illustrating Laurie Roberts’ column. Dark, so dark!

While I was at the office this afternoon a friend dm’d me on Facebook with the news that the “Open and Honest Coalition”, the campaign spearheading two separate initiatives involving reining in dark money (good!) and changing the election system to one where a “jungle” primary would produce two, and only two, candidates for every spot in the general election (bad!), was suspending its paid signature-gathering operations due to funding drying up.

A possible explanation, per Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic, follows:

The dark money initiative and open primary initiative aren’t dead yet, supporters insist, but if not, they’re clinging to life by a thread. Continue reading

What open Presidential primaries are teaching us about “independent” voters.

sam kelley
Shameless plug again: I’ll be on the air with Sam and Mel Young from 3 to 5 on Friday!

I keep thinking back to Monday’s Sam Kelley radio show (shameless plug: I’m on every Friday from 3 to 5pm!) and his guest, Patrick McWhorter of the Open and Honest Coalition, which is behind the Top Two primary initiative expected to be on the ballot this November.

McWhorter told Kelley that when he was the head of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, he grew increasingly frustrated with many state legislators, whom he described as highly ideological and difficult to work with. McWhorter cited this experience as a motivation for him to work on the Top Two primary campaign. He reiterated the claim that Top Two people often make, that candidates in a jungle primary will have to appeal to “everyone”. When asked by Sam about the prospect of two candidates of the same party making it to the general election (when the large majority people actually come out to vote) and, thus, being the only choices those voters have, McWhorter brushed the concern aside breezily with “they might be two very different Republicans!”

McWhorter’s belief that having more “independents” voting in primaries leads to more moderate (by his definition) candidates doesn’t seem to be holding up with the Presidential primaries, where several states allow voters who don’t belong to either major party to vote for a Presidential candidate. New Hampshire held its primary recently and, in a state famous for the large number of “independents” who participate in it, the two winners were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both candidates won with substantial support of “independent” voters.

Now, let me be clear that I’m not drawing a specious false equivalence – as many have – between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The former is a longtime respected member of Congress who is running for President on real policy proposals and is a good person, the latter is bigoted pond scum with a combover. But to the people who are behind the Top Two effort, both Sanders and Trump would be equally unacceptable radical choices as, say, candidates for the Arizona Legislature. But they are who the “independents” who turned up to the New Hampshire primary favored as Presidential candidates. (While I’ll note that by raw vote the top two vote-getters were Sanders and Clinton, the vast majority of her votes from Democratic partisans, not “independents”.)

Analyst Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight believes that “independents” matter little, if at all, to the outcomes of primaries. That’s certainly been the case with the open primaries we already have in Arizona in state elections, where a non-partisan voter may simply request a ballot for the partisan primary they wish to vote in. But we’ll see in the upcoming Presidential primaries.

As it stands for Super Tuesday, where eight of the ten states holding Presidential preference elections have open primaries, polling in those eight states shows Trump with a lead in four, in a virtual tie with Cruz in one, and Cruz with a lead in two on the Republican side. Open primaries don’t seem to be helping John Kasich, the guy largely seen as “moderate”* there. On the Democratic side Clinton leads in six open primary states (most in the South) and Sanders leads in Vermont and Massachusetts, as expected. So it looks like minimal impact by “independents” there.

*Of course, John Kasich is NOT a moderate by any stretch but is deftly parlaying his rare moments of decency, such as accepting the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, and a gruff irascible exterior that press people swoon over into a big distraction from awful and radical he really is. Do not be fooled, liberals!

Top Two primary gets some much-needed push back on Phoenix radio

sam kelley

For those who don’t know already, I do the Sam Kelley Show every Friday from 3 to 5pm on 1480am KPHX Phoenix (shameless plug). But Sam does the show five days a week and on Monday encouraged me to call in because Patrick McWhorter, the communications guy for the so-called Open and Honest Coalition would be interviewed in the second hour. These are the people bringing us the ill-advised Top Two Primary initiative, which would limit voters’ choice in November general elections to two, and only two, candidates for each office, both of whom could be from the same party or otherwise ideologically similar. In other words, it will “work” by effectively disenfranchising a large percentage of voters in practically every election.

And that’s ironic since the main argument of the Top Two people is that all these poor “independent” voters are being disenfranchised in the primary elections because they can’t vote in them. Oh wait…they can vote in them by simply requesting a ballot for the primary they want to vote in or, if it’s the quadrennial Presidential Preference Primary, briefly re-registering as a member of a party*. Continue reading

Diligent voters are now the “angriest mob”, per Paul Johnson

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

johnson top two
Paul Johnson, Open and Honest Coalition

It used to be, not long ago, that voters who never missed any election were known as “good citizens”. But as the country has become more polarized and increasingly ungovernable, thanks entirely to one party (the GOP) being overtaken completely by rabid reactionaries, there is an increasing tendency by the Serious People to blame the voters for what they sat back and allowed to happen for decades*. This has certainly been the strategy of the people behind the Open “Primary”** initiative (AKA Top Two) in Arizona, which is currently getting signatures for the 2016 ballot.

The Arizona Republic has relentlessly promoted Top Two for years now, running numerous favorable articles and editorials on it since the first version (which failed) was introduced in 2012. Last Saturday, there was this softball interview with former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, a main backer of the initiative.

Why did the Open and Honest Coalition form?

The existing system discriminates against the 1.2 million voters who choose to not affiliate with a party, the largest group in Arizona. All taxpayers pay for primary elections, but independents are barred as candidates from those ballots and forced to choose a party ballot which they have already chosen to reject. Arizona had a 30-year record-low voter turnout in 2014 because voters aren’t given the freedom of choice. Continue reading