Opposition Forming to Open Primary

Jul 11, 2012

The initiative would scrap the current system where each party chooses its own nominees and they run against each other in November. Instead, all candidates would run in a single primary, with the top two facing off in the general election. Proponents say that would force candidates to appeal to all segments of the population rather than simply courting what may be the extremes of their own party -- and then coasting to victory in November because of a lopsided voter registration edge in a legislative or congressional district. But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said experience elsewhere shows the initiative won't change that.

"Egypt just basically had an open primary," Montgomery pointed out. "And you had two extremist candidates, one from the Muslim Brotherhood and one who represents the last dictator's regime get through because you had a bunch of, quote/unquote, moderate candidate in the middle that carved up that vote."

Montgomery said foes also are weighing a legal challenge because the Arizona Constitution says amendments must be limited to a single subject. He said this measure affects everything from how candidates qualify for the ballot to how they get optional public financing. Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson disagreed.

"We're doing one thing," Johnson said. "We're changing the way primaries are done. We're down to about a page. If it's not possible with what we've done, I don't know that any constitutional amendment would ever be possible."