Kyrsten Sinema, Vernon Parker and Why Top-Two Was and Is a Dumb Idea
Is Kyrsten heading for congress? If she can get past Vernon Parker, she is...
See also: Can Kyrsten Sinema Win in Congressional District 9? See also: Kyrsten Sinema's Hilary Rosen Moment, and Her Persistent Verbal Flubbery See also: George H.W. Bush Approves of Vernon Parker; One-Time President Seems to Think Parker Has the Vision Thing See also: Vernon Parker Leads Republicans in CD9, According to Vernon Parker's Poll
What's interesting about the result of the primary races in the newly drawn Ninth Congressional District is not that Republican Vernon Parker and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won their respective primaries. Rather it's that taken together, those primaries offer a textbook example of why the so-called Top Two initiative is a dumb idea.
Both Sinema and Parker were expected to win, Parker on the basis of name recognition in a crowded GOP field, Sinema as it was anticipated that her competitors would split the vote against her, leaving her the victor.
Each candidate comes with baggage. Sinema will have to contend with her past as a radical lefty, and Parker will face questions over his near-foreclosure and issues surrounding his consulting venture VBP Group, which is barred from obtaining certain Small Business Administration contracts.
Sinema is a tough campaigner and has demonstrated that she knows how to take a punch, and then some, while Parker can boast some cross-party appeal as long as he doesn't stand too close to Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
An African-American Republican versus an openly LGBT Democrat and one-time Ralph Nader-enthusiast will make for an entertaining race to follow. However, it would have not have been so interesting if former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson's Open Elections/Open Government initiative had been in play.
Essentially, the proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution would create an open primary, from which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, would advance to the general election.
Election officials say the proposal doesn't have the signatures necessary, while its supporters are going to court, betting that a judge will reverse the decision to keep it off the November ballot.
Proponents hope that the measure removes partisanship and extremism from the battlefield, and increases voter participation, noble goals to be sure.
Thing is, in CD 9, if the top two proposal had been law, and the same candidates were vying for those two slots, voters would have been given two liberal Democrats to chose from in the general: Sinema and her former colleague in the state Senate, David Schapira.
Granted, the results might have varied if Dems and GOPers could vote in each others' primaries without switching party affiliation, and if Indies could more easily participate in each.
Still, I doubt the vote counts in Tuesday's CD 9 primaries would have been much different under Top Two. Which is fine, I guess, if you're a liberal Dem. Not so much so if you're an adherent of the Grand Old Party.
Similarly, Dems would be out of luck, as they largely are now in GOP-leaning legislative and congressional districts.
Sure, I guess if you were a registered D dwelling in uber-conservative CD 4 under Top Two you could have cast your ballot for gun-slingin' Ron Gould or Tea Party-hearty animal Paul Gosar. But would you have wanted to? I mean, if you're a Dem in that district, the only way to vote is with your feet and amscray. Top Two won't save ya.
Those arguing for Top Two maintain that a new and Edenic political world will open up before us once the system is in place. Voters will be more informed and engaged. Politicians will care more about the wants of the electorate, and party hacks will melt away like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.
Sorry, I don't buy it. Top Two promises to be just another failed experiment by do-gooders, like the state's Clean Elections system, which effectively has been gamed by political extremists and greedy pols looking for free money.
I agree we all have an interest in more moderate political representation. However, redistricting has already had a positive impact, forcing wingnuts to the sidelines, and threatening an end to the Republican supermajority this November.
Not that I care that much about the proposal either way. I'm a little too cynical to believe that human nature can be so easily manipulated. There are no panaceas, no Utopias, and Arizona sure ain't the Harvard debate club.
Sand Land politics is like cage fighting with machetes. Top Two would not change this or end dirty tricks and political shenanigans.
If this last ditch legal gambit to put it on the ballot succeeds and the voters say yes to it, so what? This is the same electorate that put a gay marriage ban in the Arizona Constitution and voted for a sinister, incoherent boob like Governor Jan Brewer. That's why I can't help but view the proposal with a jaundiced eye, despite the good intentions of those advancing it.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.