Open primary defeat not just about money
Supporters of a proposition on the General Election ballot that would have created a state-level open primary system are putting the blame for its defeat on big campaign spending against it.
Support for Proposition 121 was mostly grassroots with little financial backing and opposition to it by a group called Save Our Vote was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from an obscure political action coalition called Americans for Responsible Leadership.
That undoubtedly made some difference but we don't buy that alone caused the loss. Money alone can't convince voters. It is clear that many voters either did not understand the proposal or just didn't like the idea of changing to open primaries.
That is ironic, given that many already participate in an open primary system that works very well. Almost all cities in Arizona, including Yuma, use an open primary system in municipal elections.
This is the way it works. Candidates from all political affiliations run together for election in the primary, instead of separately by party. Those winning a majority of votes are automatically elected to office without going on to the General Election. The remaining top highest vote getters, if there are still vacant seats, can move on for a final selection by voters in the General Election. If you have voted in a Yuma City Council election, you are aware of how it works.
It is a system that puts emphasis on candidate competence, not party politics. Winners may be from the same party or separate parties. It doesn't matter because the goal is to get the best office holders, not the best person from each party. It is essentially a nonpartisan form of election, and that is what makes it attractive to supporters who want to rid the election process of the current bitter partisan rivalries between parties.
Paul Johnson, a former mayor of Phoenix and the leader of the open primary effort, said after its defeat that the campaign would continue and that it could be brought to voters again in the future.
That is not unusual in our state. Issues often come before voters multiple times before they finally get the support they need. Perhaps that will also happen with open primaries.