Two years ago, Arizona voters approved the Clean Elections initiative, a law that offers public funding to state and legislative candidates who agree to voluntary campaign spending limits. But with the law in limbo -- pending a ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court -- it's increasingly likely that there will be no Clean Elections in Arizona this year.
Sharlene Bozack, director of the Clean Elections Institute, which sponsored the initiative, is conducting an e-mail survey of members of the Arizona Legislature running for reelection (or election to a different house). She says thus far Christine Weason, a Democratic House member from central Phoenix's District 25, is the only legislative candidate who is a firm commitment.
Even Chris Cummiskey, Weason's Senate counterpart and a Democrat who's made his reputation in Arizona politics as a reformer, says he's no longer planning to run as a Clean Elections candidate.
"In my estimation, waiting any additional time would put us in further jeopardy for the upcoming election," says Cummiskey, who broke the news to Bozack April 1.
With the Legislature due to recess any day (as of press time), Cummiskey and other incumbent lawmakers need to prepare to start raising money; for the most part, they're prohibited from fund-raising activities while they're in session.
Cummiskey says his decision was based in part on the fact that he has potentially stiff competition this November, from Republican James Faulkner. Waiting for the Supreme Court to rule, he says, would put him at a disadvantage he couldn't hope to make up if the ruling doesn't come down for months.
Earlier this year, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Myers ruled that the method of appointing the members of the commission that oversees the law is unconstitutional. The ruling is on appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court, which could rule tomorrow -- or months from now.
But for now, it appears, the law's opponents -- including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce -- have won the battle, if not the war.
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This is not a particularly sexy year to test such a law; the only statewide offices up for grabs are two Corporation Commission seats. The candidates -- incumbent Republican Bill Mundell and challengers, including Republican Marc Spitzer and Democrats Herschella Horton and Barbara Lubin -- are all signed on as Clean Elections candidates, but Bozack says tensions are running high.
"Herschella Horton and Barbara Lubin call every couple of days to check in with me," she says.
Cummiskey admits that for this year, anyway, Clean Elections has already suffered defeat.
"Those who oppose Clean Elections have had some success," he says. "I'm not sure anyone wants to let the dice roll on the first try. . . . Just about everyone's out at this point."