Top-two primary: So much for THAT argument

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Well, the Washington top-two primary is over - and the results are in.

Here in Oregon, as we look ahead to the fight over Ballot Measure 65 - which would create a top-two primary of our own - let's examine one of the key arguments of its opponents.

There are plenty of arguments marshalled by opponents of M65, some of which are very good arguments, but here's one that appears to have fallen flat on its face.

The argument goes something like this: In a top-two primary, situations would arise in which districts that are usually closely divided between the Democrats and Republicans could wind up with a general election featuring two candidates from the same party - effectively wiping out the other party's "right" to contest a close seat in the November election. Presumably, that situation could arise with four (or more) candidates tightly bunched together -- say Donnie Democrat 26%, Lucy Liberal 25%, Ralph Republican 24%, Connie Conservative 23%. And while the Democrats combined for only 51% of the vote, they would get 100% of the spots in the general election (acing out the GOP.)

But here's the thing: In Washington's inaugural top-two primary, across 124 separate legislative races, that didn't happen a single time. In fact, in every single swing district, the top two candidates were one Democrat and one Republican.

Here's the run-down:

Beyond the Lege races: All nine congressional races had the top Democrat and the top Republican advance. In all eight partisan statewide offices, the top Democrat and the top Republican advanced.

So... while there may be other reasons to oppose M65 - and acknowledging Gronke's concerns about samples-of-one - so far, it doesn't appear that the Top Two primary would tend to cause a raft of disenfranchised partisans in swing districts.

I remain undecided.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Oh, one more thing: David Duke didn't win any of those legislative primaries. (Just in case you were wondering, given how often M65 opponents bring up his name.)

    But the guy who says he represents the "Salmon Yoga" party did get 1.7% of the vote in one of those seven-way primaries.

  • Rulial (unverified)
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    If the top-two system were in place here in Oregon, non-Democrats would have had a meaningful say in the election of our next attorney general. I think that John Kroger will make a fine attorney general, but I think democracy lost in the process by which he was elected.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    I think the best argument for a top two system is that the candidates have to pitch to the political center, rather than the political fringe. Currently, many jurisdictions are non-competitive, so candidates win the primary by appealing to the party "base", not the political center, and go on to win the general. However, they then have no interest in principled compromise, since they were elected by the fringe, which doesn't like compromise. I'm ready to see some movement forward in Salem and DC. How about you? More here.

  • (Show?)

    I also am undecided on M65. The rest of the ballot should be straight forward though. In the end, if I'm still in doubt I'll mark no. Until then I'm keeping an open mind about it. I haven't had a chance to read Paul Gronke's article yet.

  • Emmett O'Connell (unverified)
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    While not a legislative race, the county commission race here in Thurston County I think illustrates your point, Kari.

    Jon Halvorson and Sandra Romero were the two well funded Democratic candidates in the most swing of three districts. They raised nearly $100k between themselves, compared to $3,000 by the lone Republican candidate. Most folks assumed that Halvorson and Romero would end up on the general together, thereby "acing out" the Republicans in a swing district.

    Though, if that did happen, you could hardly give credit to the Republicans. There guy only raised $3k, for Christ's sake.

    Anyway, it ends up being Romero and the underfunded Republican. Money cannot defeat party identification.

  • Keep your eye on the ball (unverified)
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    Boy Kari, you sure know how to miss the point. You're attempt to spin this single first result as somehow conclusive that a key argument against this system is false, rather than the first significant evidence of a possible problem that is the real point of that argument demonstrates an astoundingly superficial intellect, the list of largely beside-the-point stats notwithstanding. Or maybe it demonstrates something else?

    From the Seattle Times: Washington's top-two primary put to test:

    Tuesday's primary will give voters something they've never had before in the general election.

    Democrats running against Democrats, and Republicans running against Republicans. At least a half-dozen legislative races this November will be one-party contests.

    First, the real argument against Washington's system and M65 is that such a result in a Federal race would violate the intent of the Federal law that sets the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as a common election day so that no state communicates to other states which Party will hold a seat in Congress before that day. Congress said they passed that law because they wanted to prevent one state from improperly influencing voters in those states (like to not go to the polls similar to what happened in 1980 when West coast voters apparently didn't go to the polls after the media called it early for Reagan). This is the Congressional intent SCOTUS actually cited as the reason they gave for WHY LA's declaration of an early winner in their top-two primary was illegal in Love v. Foster and Foster v. Love.

    In the meantime, what people, and most notably supporters have refused to address, is that Washington's system and M65 actually does is to make re-districting an even higher-stakes political game. Supporters I've met willingly demonstrate their support is actually out of their political ignorance (and usually personal selfish pique) in that they also rail against uncompetitive races. But they can't explain when asked how that relates to and is increasingly a product of modern re-districting in which the goal has become to draw districts so the seat is safe for one or the other party.

    Under Washington's system and M65, whatever party happens to hold the majority at a time of re-districting will now have even more reason to re-draw the map as best they can to their favor, which also means drawing fewer but safer seats for the minority. Given the patterns of political self-segregation we see at the national and state levels, the result could be a more closely divided legislatures which actually lead to more polarization and deadlock, not compromise.

    Could it be that Kari, as a partisan political operative, actually doesn't see this increased polarization due to re-districting outcome as a problem? Which is why he is quick to make an argument that this evidence of one election is conclusive, rather than a possible hint at what could actually happen over time?

    And LA has now abandoned their system for a bunch of reasons.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)
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    I think I'm opposed to this top two system, Kari, and partly for the reason you say is debunked here, in that one party could get both slots. But if that's extremely unlikely, and the survivors are always going to be a Republican and a Democrat, then what's the point of the system? The only argument I can see for this system is so that non-party members can affect a party's choice of candidate. But if you're looking for that, an open primary would provide it (and I'm opposed to that, too.)

  • (Show?)

    I wish I could respond to KYEOTB's argument, but it doesn't make a whit of sense.

    whatever party happens to hold the majority at a time of re-districting will now have even more reason to re-draw the map as best they can to their favor, which also means drawing fewer but safer seats for the minority. Given the patterns of political self-segregation we see at the national and state levels, the result could be a more closely divided legislatures which actually lead to more polarization and deadlock, not compromise.

    While not agreeing with the premise here, I fail to understand how giving the minority fewer seats leads to a more closely divided legislature. The arithmetic doesn't make sense.

    Could it be that Kari, as a partisan political operative...

    GUILTY! I'm a partisan political operative! GUILTY! Next question?

    I'll suggest one: If Kari's a predictable partisan hack, why is he still undecided on this measure that's opposed by every single political party in Oregon?

    Nevermind. Ignore that. Discussing what's inside my head might be interesting for a psychologist, but boring for everyone else.

  • (Show?)

    I haven't decided yet what I think of the top-two system...but it sure doesn't seem to have helped the turnout in Washington State.

    I'm hearing it was pretty low....

  • (Show?)

    I'll suggest one: If Kari's a predictable partisan hack, why is he still undecided on this measure that's opposed by every single political party in Oregon?

    The Open Primary is not opposed by the Independent Party, nor the Working Families Party. The IPO is split on the Measure, and I believe that the WFP is generally supportive.

  • (Show?)

    Kari,

    I don't know what opponents you are referring to, but I have not claimed that evenly balanced districts will result in two candidates from a single party being pushed forward. I am far more concerned about districts that are imbalanced, where it is likely that two candidates from a single party--a moderate and a wingnut--will go forward.

    Furthermore, in such a district, it is quite likely that a number of moderates from a single party will clog the "middle" (as it were) and multiple wingnut will emerge.

    The irony of your posting is that you support one of the main arguments I have made--that it is the DISTRICTING process that encourages the election of extremists, not the primary system.

    So why muck around with the primary system? Why aren't we considering a non-partisan redistricting system?

    BTW, in the cases you cite above, my key concerns would be in those districts with 4 or more candidates, where a lot of candidates split a relatively small amount of the vote.

    The central argument used by the proponents is that the top two will reduce partisanship and gridlock in the legislature by electing candidates that appeal to "all" the voters.

    That argument raises all sorts of problems, the biggest being that all the heroes from the 1970s they refer to were elected under the old system!

    Nonetheless, one primary result really tells us nothing. That's the same error that the Oregonian made (and as pointed out above, if we were to use the Oregonian's logic, the Top Two just lost out on turnout).

    Did that happen? You've said nothing about that, and in those districts with a lot of candidates, there is a very good chance that a fringe candidate emerged.

    I don't know those candidates well enough to know the answer.

  • (Show?)

    The Open Primary is not opposed by the Independent Party, nor the Working Families Party. The IPO is split on the Measure, and I believe that the WFP is generally supportive.

    I stand corrected.

  • Rulial (unverified)
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    I hear people complaining that the top-2 system allows for two Democrats or two Republicans to advance to the general election. But this happens in districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican. Under Oregon's current system, the election would have been determined in the primary.

    There are districts in Oregon where this happens. If you live in some parts of inner-southeast Portland, and you aren't a Democrat, you have no meaningful voice in the election. Under a top-two system, you would.

    "Keep your eye on the ball" says:

    First, the real argument against Washington's system and M65 is that such a result in a Federal race would violate the intent of the Federal law that sets the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as a common election day so that no state communicates to other states which Party will hold a seat in Congress before that day. Congress said they passed that law because they wanted to prevent one state from improperly influencing voters in those states (like to not go to the polls similar to what happened in 1980 when West coast voters apparently didn't go to the polls after the media called it early for Reagan).
    The two-Democrats or two-Republicans situation only arises in districts where one party traditionally dominates anyway. Sure, now we know for sure that some districts in Washington will be represented by a Democrat or a Republican, but most were fairly sure of that already. And even if it's a forgone conclusion that a member of party X will represent me in the fall, I still care about individual candidates' stances on the issues.

    In the meantime, what people, and most notably supporters have refused to address, is that Washington's system and M65 actually does is to make re-districting an even higher-stakes political game. [. . .] Under Washington's system and M65, whatever party happens to hold the majority at a time of re-districting will now have even more reason to re-draw the map as best they can to their favor [. . .]

    Why? In your whole post, you never any explanation why the party controlling the legislature would have more reason to make safe seats under the top-two system.

    Under the old system, making a safe district also guarantees a party a seat in the legislature. If anything, the top-two system only ensures that all voters, rather than just registered voters of the dominant party, decide who fills it.

    However, in an very liberal or very conservative district, the top-two system might lead to a situation in which a minor-party candidate is one of the top two. In this case, people might feel more comfortable voting for the minor-party candidate, because they wouldn't fear helping the major-party they dislike. In this way, the top-two system might actually make so-called "safe seats" less safe.

  • (Show?)

    I don't know what opponents you are referring to, but I have not claimed that evenly balanced districts will result in two candidates from a single party being pushed forward.

    I would be one of those opponents Kari is referring to. And I've already admitted that it's unlikely that this circumstance will happen often. That said, 1 primary election is obviously a terrible sample size to judge whether or not the system works. Give it 10 years or so when most of the members of the state legislature have been elected under this system, and then see if it's actually made a difference.

    That said, the more common danger of a top-two primary is the chance for candidates to be ideological spoilers as Paul alludes to. MLW suggests that candidates have to pitch to the center to win enough votes in the primary, but historically this is inaccurate in Louisiana where the system originates. In reality in the open primary it is even more important that a candidate solidify their base. What happens is the two candidates the furthest away from the center of the political spectrum consolidate their respective party bases, while the more moderate candidates split the votes of everyone in the center, resulting in the most extreme candidates advancing.

    And Kari, didn't you design the original website for the petition?

  • (Show?)

    MLW suggests that candidates have to pitch to the center to win enough votes in the primary, but historically this is inaccurate in Louisiana where the system originates.

    The Open Primary is not directly analagous to the Louisiana System. That system is more similar to the current non-partisan elections that we have in most counties and municipalities around the state.

    I think that Oregon's experience with non-partisan races is enough to shoot a fairly big hole in the sky-is-falling David Duke example that some folks keep falling back on.

  • (Show?)

    Mike S., take another look at Kari's post. He didn't say that all races will end up with 1D, 1R -- nor is that what happened in Washington. Kari noted that:

    In only two cases, the top two candidates were Democrats, while the Republican lost -- the "disenfranchisement" situation. In one of those cases, the Democrats combined for 83%. In the other, the Democrats combined for 82%. In other words, these are safe Democratic districts with a sure-loser Republican. Seven districts had four candidates. In 6 cases, the top two included a Democrat and a Republican. In just one case, the top two candidates were Democrats (and the two losers were both Republicans.) Again, it was a safe Democratic district - with the Dems combining for 74%.

    In those districts (and several others he mentioned), non-affiliated voters and minority party members will have the opportunity to cast a meaningful vote for their representative in November. They will have an opportunity to participate in their government. If the November ballot featured a heavy favorite and a guaranteed also-ran, that is a fake election. It makes a mockery of democracy, and marginalizes voters -- in a number of cases, I believe, the majority> of voters in a district.

    In general, I think all the speculation -- on both sides of this -- about extremism and moderation is misguided. "Moderate" is not a clearly-defined term. It's not something we can measure.

    The best reason to support Measure 65 are that it allows citizens to have a voice in who represents them. That is fundamental to democracy, and is something that many citizens lack as of now.

    Also, Mike -- you repeat a misunderstanding that seems to be persistent. Under the top two system, parties do not get to nominate candidates. So the notion that one party could meddle in the affairs of another simply doesn't make sense; the parties wouldn't have those kinds of affairs to meddle with.

    Disclosure: I've done a fair amount of consulting for the pro-M65 campaign, but I'm speaking for myself.

  • (Show?)

    I should explain -- in a heavily-slanted (pro D or pro R) district, under the current system, members of any minority party, and non-affiliated voters, effectively have no meaningful opportunity to vote for, and almost no influence over, who represents them. I may or may not be correct that it's ever a majority of voters in a district, but it comes close. Consider a district where registration is 50% R, 25% D, 20% NAV, and 5% minor party. That's 50% of the voters who never get to choose WHICH Republican wins the November election in a landslide.

  • Jax (unverified)
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    I like Arizona's system of primaries the best. Each party has a separate ballot, but unaffiliated voters can choose any one primary to vote in.

  • Terry (unverified)
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    Kari was easily able to identify the D's and R's running in each district. Therein lies the problem.

    True electoral reform --whether top two, instant run-off, or some variation thereof-- needs to be entirely non-partisan. Let the candidates run on the issues and keep party affiliation out of it.

    That's the way it's done locally. One can only guess whether Multnomah County chair Ted Wheeler is truly a Dem. Or whether Portland School Board member Trudy Sargent voted for Bush in 2004 (that wouldn't surprise me.)

    I suppose you could look it up. But how many voters have the time to do that?

  • Miles (unverified)
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    it sure doesn't seem to have helped the turnout in Washington State.

    I'm leaning towards supporting top-two, and one reason is to increase turnout in the primary. So this is an important variable for me, because if turnout doesn't increase I have one less reason to support it.

    I am far more concerned about districts that are imbalanced, where it is likely that two candidates from a single party--a moderate and a wingnut--will go forward. Furthermore, in such a district, it is quite likely that a number of moderates from a single party will clog the "middle" (as it were) and multiple wingnut will emerge.

    Paul, isn't this just as "likely" (meaning, not very) under the existing party system? If someone were trying to introduce the two-party dominated system we have now, an opponent could argue that it would result in two extremists running in the general. After all, a few moderate Ds and one liberal wingnut on the left, and a few moderate Rs and one conservative wingut on the right, could result in both wingnuts being nominated. Two wingnuts in the general, and we're all screwed.

    Of course, this hardly ever happens, as we know from 200 years of experience. So why do we think it would happen under top-two? And even if it did happen once or twice, how is such an outcome worse than disenfranchising a plurality of voters, which currently happens in some heavily NAV districts?

    The strongest argument for top-two is to give NAVs the ability to vote for their representative without requiring them to join a club in order to have their vote matter.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Top-two and other modifications to the voting process are in one sense essentially gimmicks attempting to make essential improvements, but if we want elections to be vehicles to choose the best candidates we need above all else an electorate that is well-informed and can think independently. That would mean to a great extent the majority of voters becoming NAVs and not being afflicted by blind or some other form of loyalty to some person, ideology, a party or other group.

  • (Show?)

    As I pointed out last week at the Multnomah County Democrats meeting, this ballot measure does more than just change to a top two election.

    It changes PCP elections. Right now, PCPs are elected every 2 years. Only elected PCPs can vote on leadership, which is the main difference between an elected PCP and an appointed PCP. Recently in Multnomah County, there was a little change in the election calendar, which meant that the leadership wasn't elected right after a PCP election. And that meant the number of elected PCPs available to vote had been dramatically reduced due to moves and such. For instance, I moved from HD 50 (southern Gresham) to HD 49 (northern Gresham). That meant I was then an appointed PCP and no longer eligible to vote for officers. By changing PCP elections to every 4 years instead of every 2, you're going to see the number of elected PCPs dwindle down even more as the years pass, and in the meantime you still have to elect officers.

    This measure also changes how vacancies in the legislature are handled. Right now, if a Democrat vacates a seat, the replacement his supposed to be a Democrat. This will no longer be the case. So if we win a seat in an area where the county commission members are heavily Republican, and there is a vacancy, we could lose that seat when the vacancy is filled.

    And of course there's the very real possibility that the two major parties will move their nomination system outside the election system and still only put one Democrat or one Republican on the ballot. This is definitely the discussion that is happening at central committee meetings, both at the state and county level. Some people might like to deny it's happening, but it is indeed a conversation that has been happening. Personally, I prefer 85,000 Democrats voting in the primary to a few hundred showing up at a caucus or other type of meeting. Talk about denying people a choice.

  • (Show?)

    And Kari, didn't you design the original website for the petition?

    I built the website for the 2006 version of the measure. The 2008 version is somewhat different. It's also true that in 2006, we hadn't had a majority in the Legislature in 16 years (and it didn't look that would change anytime soon.)

    At this time, I'm undecided on M65. In general, I favor anything that involves more voters in deciding the outcomes of elections. As a "party hack", as I was called above, I'm also sensitive to the views of the parties.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Jenni, about this--

    <h2>"And of course there's the very real possibility that the two major parties will move their nomination system outside the election system and still only put one Democrat or one Republican on the ballot. This is definitely the discussion that is happening at central committee meetings, both at the state and county level. Some people might like to deny it's happening, but it is indeed a conversation that has been happening. Personally, I prefer 85,000 Democrats voting in the primary to a few hundred showing up at a caucus or other type of meeting. Talk about denying people a choice."</h2>

    There may be folks active in parties, certainly in big counties like Mult., who don't want to admit this. But in recent years local downstate parties have supported /recruited candidates who never got onto caucus radar but nonetheless ran inspiring campaigns. Some got help from the state party, some didn't. Do you think the folks who worked on those campaigns have positive feelings toward the partisan caucus system? I am talking about districts where folks feel fortunate that someone is actually willing to run for the legislature ---the only local primary was in Dist. 23 where the challengers to those who became the nominees weren't really much of a challenge, as both ultimate nominees were well known locally.

    Is this measure a statute or a constitutional amendment? I'm not sure. Of course a statute can be fixed by the next legislature.

    As far as the caucus system, I'm not sure that would happen, Jenni. Was it the subject of an agenda item at the state level, or only corridor conversation? I know party officers are going to be against this, but all involved in the process? A friend who has been an active member of state central comm. who I spoke with recently (from a county which did support local candidates not on the caucus radar) said to me when I mentioned it that the Dist. 25 Thatcher case was something to consider in the debate over this measure. Not every district has a Danny Democrat vs. Suzy Liberal primary.

    Truth is, that if every county, district, state central comm. member came out against this measure, it wouldn't answer the question of those who don't register in major parties, and who get shut out of the nominating process. Some states require nominating processes to be paid for by parties so that the tax money of those not registered in major parties doesn't pay for elections they can't vote in. If the answer to "why is our tax money paying for partisan elections we can't vote in?" nothing but, "well, you could always register with a party before the deadline and re-register NAV the day after", and those voters don't consider that a responsive answer, they might well think this is a good ballot measure.

    Some of these "end of the world as we know it" arguments were made about 1994 campaign finance reform. It was a measure which collected signatures in all 36 counties, won I think in all counties, and was in effect for at least one election cycle before being thrown out by the court. As I recall, Ryan Deckert gave it credit for allowing a young man like himself to win against a well-funded opponent.

    I was registered NAV from late May 1996 until March, 2002 (yes, I was THAT angry about the DSCC-endorsed candidate outspending one friend of mine in the Dem. primary by 10-1 and another by 100-1 and then acting like all good Democrats owed him allegiance without his having to be more specific than the one-liners he used in his ads).

    My voting behavior did not change--I still voted in every election, talked to my friends about candidates I favored, and delighted in responding to "Democrats believe ..." with "The I in Independent means I think for myself, thank you very much!". There is a stereotype of NAV implying all who register that way vote alike. Truth is, if you get 10 NAV in a room, you can have 10 different opinions, levels of activism, knowledge of politics. Some just plain got fed up.

    I saw the presentation that Phil and Norma gave to the Public Comm. on the Legislature, and I have yet to see any reason to oppose it. A county party or other political unit passing a resolution opposing it will not change my mind. Something has to be done to return the legislature to the more reasonable, open body it was when Phil and Norma were legislators.

    This has a much better chance of being enacted than a total ban on pass throughs (which is more likely to be the result of court decision or legislation).

    Retired Justice Linde thinks pass throughs are on shaky legal footing. A check sent to Friends of John Doe is the legal property of that entity, not of John himself, and should be used for salaries, postage, car mileage for the campaign, office rent, etc. Friends of John Doe shouldn't be writing checks to another legal entity. People who write checks to Friends of John Doe should not have to worry that their money will find its way into a campaign they disagree with.

    It has been said that the reason Packwood fell so far so fast at the end was the anger of the "Not another dime, Bob" women. They'd responded to a 1986 campaign solicitation by Gloria Steinem when Packwood had a tough primary challenger. He was a rare, pro-choice Republican and women contributed to help him win the primary. There was money left over after the primary and the general election proved to be easier than he expected (nominee dropped out and a roomful of state central comm. members chose the candidate who had called every voting member and personally asked for their vote over the stronger candidate who had, in the words of someone standing next to me, "alienated everyone in the room at sometime in his life"). So Packwood gave the money to Oregon House Rs who then gave the money to what turned out to be some anti-abortion candidates. The contributors were furiously angry, vowed never to give another dime to Packwood, and pass throughs have been a controversy in some circles ever since.

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    Jenni, the thing I don't get about that argument is this: any Oregonian, regardless of party registration, can run for office. Without having to ask their party's permission. Right?

    The parties may move their endorsement processes out of the publicly-funded electoral process...but how exactly is that a problem?

  • Ian (unverified)
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    This question is for LT. NB: I am not any kind of expert in Oregon politics, skeptical of Measure 65, but trying to understand its appeal.

    As Jenni wrote and you noted: And of course there's the very real possibility that the two major parties will move their nomination system outside the election system and still only put one Democrat or one Republican on the ballot.

    It seems a certainty, to me, that major parties will take their nomination processes in-house. Maybe not for each and every state house race. But for the big races, they would be foolish not to. Their candidates for Governor, Senator, and every high profile race will be nominated in good old fashioned smoke filled rooms (or, if you prefer, caucuses).

    I get the sense (from your post and elsewhere) that proponents understand this, and have concluded that the benefits outweigh this cost. That, in essence, party primaries aren't competitive enough anyway, or aren't important enough to preserve, or the principle of universal participation in a publicly sponsored election trumps everything else.

    In other words: at the end of the day, a central committee may decide the nominees for Governor or Senator from the Democrats and Republicans. To which proponents say: okay, we'll live with that.

    Am I characterizing the proponents' position accurately? Your answer may be lurking in your previous post, but I can't tell.

    FWIW: I realize the proposal will place every candidate's personal party registration on the primary ballot, even if they don't get an endorsement. My reaction to that: whoopee. Lyndon LaRouche could be a registered Democrat. The party's endorsement: I care about that.

  • (Show?)

    As I've said several times already, I am also active in the SCC as an alternate from Multnomah County. And I've heard this exact topic spoken about on numerous occasions. No, it hasn't been on the agenda yet, but I've heard from numerous people that we need to put it on the agenda and come up with a plan of what to do if this ballot measure does indeed pass.

    But people at all the meetings I've been to have been pretty adamant that it will be members of the Party who choose the nominee of the Party. And to do that we need some sort of caucus system, nominating convention, or whatever. Do you really think the parties are going to run the risk of having multiple candidates and splitting the vote so badly that two members of the other party advance to November even though they're not the majority party? And I think the last thing we all want to see is backroom deals to ensure there is only one candidate from the Party on the ballot.

    Every time I bring this up, you talk about your friend at the SCC meetings not hearing this - well I have been there personally and I have heard it and participated in it.

    Not every district has a Danny Democrat vs. Suzy Liberal primary.

    That's not even the case in all of Multnomah County, you know. I come from east county, which runs conservative, and we've been off the caucus' radar plenty of times. Heck, in Rob Brading's first race, the Mult Dems were just about the only ones there working for him. This year, Barbara Kyle, who ran against Nick Kahl in the HD 49 primary, said the caucus recruited her even though Kahl was already running.

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    Pete:

    Right now they can. However, if this passes, that may no longer be the case. The parties are given control over their party, so they could make it so that only the endorsed candidate can appear with the party's name. Or they could force other candidates out of the race.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    I consider myself a reasonably smart guy, but I still can't understand why party insiders are so hostile to the Top-Two concept. Anybody can crawl out from under a rock and file for office in the primary election as a representative of any party, so I don't think this has anything to do with "controlling" who files for election as a candidate. The election office does not require you to establish your bona fide qualifications as a Dem or Repub when you file and pay your filing fee.

    I have a vague feeling that the parties are concerned about loss of party affiliated voter registration (why bother to register as Dem or Repub under a Top-Two system) which might affect fund raising by the parties? Just a guess, but the only thing I can think of.

    Enlighten me please, in simple language!!!

  • (Show?)

    I have a vague feeling that the parties are concerned about loss of party affiliated voter registration (why bother to register as Dem or Repub under a Top-Two system) which might affect fund raising by the parties? Just a guess, but the only thing I can think of.

    It wouldn't really affect fundraising at all, since those who are most willing to give dollars to the party are still going to stay registered as Democrats. We'll still have party registration.

    However, what I don't think people understand is that there is nothing to say that the party can't stop candidates from using the party name next to their name on the ballot. Right now it's not an issue since members of the party (those registered with the party) choose their nominee. But under this system, that goes away. As such, the parties would be likely to move their nomination process internally and only allow their nominated candidate on the "primary" ballot.

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    Bill, I just can't let this go: Top-two and other modifications to the voting process are in one sense essentially gimmicks attempting to make essential improvements, but if we want elections to be vehicles to choose the best candidates we need above all else an electorate that is well-informed and can think independently. That would mean to a great extent the majority of voters becoming NAVs and not being afflicted by blind or some other form of loyalty to some person, ideology, a party or other group.

    Why why why? What is wrong with using group affiliations as a way to structure our social and political lives?

    Humans are social creatures. We have always and everywhere formed social groupings, whether it be for procreation, recreation, or governance.

    I am not sure what you have in mind, that people will just sit in a dark room, read (and comprehend) all the campaign literature and information, and make a decision?

    To get a bit less philosophical, democracies in all places and for all times have relied on the organizing institution of the political party to help structure political competition and channel participation. Even in America, the first and oldest of democracies, party grouping appeared in the first legislature and we had identifiable mass parties by 1824.

    What's so wrong with this?

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    I think that Oregon's experience with non-partisan races is enough to shoot a fairly big hole in the sky-is-falling David Duke example that some folks keep falling back on.

    This is not true. In a non-partisan contest, you can win on the first round, so you have a strong incentive to build as large an electoral coalition as possible (and thus run to the median voter).

    This is not the case in a top two--the incentives are as Nick describes them. This is a critical difference between the two systems.

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    Jenni, I'm sorry, but you're wrong. Your understanding of what Measure 65 would do is incorrect. Please take a closer look at the text of the measure.

    There is simply no provision in there that gives the parties an opportunity to deny people the chance to be on the ballot. And their party registration may be listed, without party approval, provided that they were registered 70 days prior. (The parties may endorse, which would appear separately.)

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)
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    'Keep your eye on the ball' says: "And [Louisiana] has now abandoned their system for a bunch of reasons."

    Louisiana has this year restored party primaries for its congressional elections, but it continues to use the "top two" (popularly called the "open primary") for its state and local elections. Louisiana began using the "top two" for state and local elections in 1975, and it used the "top two" for congressional elections, 1978-2006.

    Jax says, "I like Arizona's system of primaries the best. Each party has a separate ballot, but unaffiliated voters can choose any one primary to vote in."

    Arizona is the only state that has a law forcing the parties to let independents vote in their primaries. Last year, a federal court said the AZ Libertarians could block independents from voting in Libertarian primaries (AZ Libertarian v. Brewer). While the AZ Democrats and Republicans could likely also win such a lawsuit, they continue to follow the law-- probably because they're afraid of being blasted by Sen. McCain.

    It's worth noting that in a closed primary state-- like Oregon-- each party has the right to invite independents to vote in its primary. I understand that one or both of your major parties has, at times, extended this invitation to independents.

    The "top two" makes it nearly impossible for independent and small-party candidates to reach the final, deciding election, so I cannot fathom why any small party would support this measure.

    If a small party's message is kept out of the final, deciding election, the party loses its main reason for existing.

    Why should the voters be limted to only two choices in the final, deciding election?

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    It's not the party that will deny people the opportunity to run, Jenni clearly understands that. The parties will decide who to endorse (who gets to have a D or an R or a whatever) next to their name. At least that's the way Kiesling explained it to the group I sat in on. He also seemed pissed when anyone questioned his proposal. Think about the race in 42 - consultants and lobby groups would have decided who they liked and strong-armed the rest not to run so they wouldn't split the vote. Maybe they would have picked Jules, maybe they wouldn't have. Either way, democracy loses. This is where the backroom deal will occur. Of course the biggest problem with this measure is the amount of $ folks will end up spending and what it does to 3rd parties. I'm really surprised at how many people are saying they haven't decided on this one yet.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks, Pete. The summary language about parties and the "beliefs and choices of their members, without any compulsion..." is very interesting.

    I had a hard time imagaining Jenni's scenario in an party meeting I had ever attended. Every party action takes at least a majority and generally both a majority and a quorum. It is hard for me to envision a quorum and a majority (esp. given all the involvement by new people) acting as Jenni described without any pushback from anyone.

    Reality is, this got on the ballot in a campaign led by 2 former legislators who later became Sec. of State and in the minds of many did that job well.

    Partisans might not like that reality, but if there wasn't support for the idea, they wouldn't have gotten on the ballot, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    How many years now has the percent of those not registering in a major party been 20% or more? You don't think those folks can influence elections? Could it be that parties are "losing market share" because ordinary people see them as closed clubs?

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)
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    It's worth noting that, prior to Washington state this year, Louisiana was the only state that used the "top two" for all of its state and congressional elections (making WA now the only state using it for its congressional elections).

    I'm convinced that the Washington "top two" and Oregon's M65 are clearly unconstitutional for congressional elections.

    Look for that to be one of the features of the Washington system that is challenged in federal court next year.

    ~~ Steve Rankin Jackson, Mississippi

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    Actually, some have been discussing the legal situation this puts the parties in, and they've come up with a few things that might work...

    • they add to the qualifications for a candidate with their party's name on the ballot to say they have to have the party's endorsement

    • the parties fight for their legal right to nominate a person to represent their party, which then excludes anyone else from running with the party's name

    It's not so much what the ballot measure says as it is the rights of the political party to choose who represents them on the ballot. This is why we get into a sticky situation.

    And of course there's always the backroom deal option, where other candidates are forced out of the process.

    One way or another what we're likely to end up with on the ballot is one candidate per party. And if you think 85,000 Democrats choosing the Dems to represent the Party, what do you think of a handful or a few hundred doing that?

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    Darn it... that's what I get for itching and typing at the same time (stupid allergic reaction).

    That should say:

    And if you think 85,000 Democrats choosing the Dems to represent the Party leaves people out, what do you think of a handful or a few hundred doing that?

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    It got on the ballot because folks collecting signatures for it asked passer's by if they'd "like to sign a petition for an open primary in Oregon?" Ugh,I can't tell you how many times I had to correct someone looking for a signature on this one.

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    I had a hard time imagaining Jenni's scenario in an party meeting I had ever attended. Every party action takes at least a majority and generally both a majority and a quorum. It is hard for me to envision a quorum and a majority (esp. given all the involvement by new people) acting as Jenni described without any pushback from anyone.

    The only meetings I've ever been at that require a quorum are executive committee meetings. Every other decision has always been based on a majority vote. And a caucus-like system would definitely be on a majority vote.

    People like to use Multnomah County as an example for why we need this (inner Portland districts with "no choice in November"). Don't forget this is also the county that didn't endorse Governor Kulongoski and opposed Ginny Burdick. You don't think we wouldn't have a vote to support only one candidate in order to not run the risk of sending two Republicans to the November ballot? Or that we wouldn't support one Dem over another - we do it all the time.

    Even worse, we could have what happened to us in Texas - we had to have an open race because of a small redistricting done after the primary, with a run off afterward. Republicans put up Democratic candidates that they used to try to get one of the top 2 spots (it was obvious Congressman Steve Stockman, R, would be the other one in the top). It took a fight in the courts to get one candidate off the ballot and all our time to ensure that Nick Lampson was in the top 2. At the same time we had to ignore almost all our other races.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    So does the Oregon Democratic Party hold the trade name or trademark rights to the word(s) Democrat or Dem. or whatever, so they could sue to stop candidate Mr. X from claiming affiliation in the absence of party endorsement? What if Mr. X is a lifelong registered Democrat, but chooses to throw his hat into the election without going through party channels?

    I am not a troll. Death to the Republicans. But I still don't understand this issue or the consequences.

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    But people at all the meetings I've been to have been pretty adamant that it will be members of the Party who choose the nominee of the Party.

    They may be adamant about that point, but as the Decider has proven, time and again, it is possible to be adamant and wrong.

    Political parties will have endorsement power if Measure 65 passes, not nominating power.

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    The "top two" makes it nearly impossible for independent and small-party candidates to reach the final, deciding election, so I cannot fathom why any small party would support this measure.

    There is no aspect of the open primary that will make it "impossible" for minor political parties to make the general election ballot.

    44 percent of legislative races and two out of five statewide races will not be contested in November. There is a very big hole for minor political parties to exploit if they can guarantee that their candidates will face a one-on-one election in November.

    Moreover, they will have the right to have cross-endorsements printed on the ballot -- a right that is currently not extended to minor political parties (in contravention of Oregon law, IMHO).

  • LT (unverified)
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    Greg, I don't think parties hold a patent, copyright, etc. Even under the current system, Kim Thatcher was able to hijack the primary process and defeat Republican Dist. 25 incumbent Backlund, supported by many Republicans and also many who weren't registered that way. There have been other primaries where incumbents have been defeated.

    And when a Democratic nominee (the first election after a census and redistricting, when it was someone who was not previously in the district) was found to have had a voting record to the right of Republican Norma Paulus in the legislature, a group of prominent Democratic activists with well known names launched the "We say vote for LB Day " advertising campaign (yes, that was a long time ago) and that is how the Republican Day got re-elected.

    Jenni, When I was on state central comm. and cong. dist. central comm., there were quorum rules. There were quorum rules in our county bylaws, but they were ignored and I was treated as some kind of subversive one time when I asked for a quorum when the chair was trying to push through a resolution.

    Do you realize how many people feel that a political party organization passing a resolution has no relevance in their lives?

    My grandfather helped defeat a local county machine in the 1930s. Very few entities are run by political machines these days (except some people think caucus-run campaigns come close). So many people vote for the individual and just want problems solved (and some people distrust political consultants for legislative and lower offices) that I don't think most people care about political parties. The woman in the front yard who says "I won't read any literature about a Democrat" has been rare in my canvassing experience. More often, it is "I'll take the literature and read it when I can" or "do you actually know this person?".

    Katy, as far as this goes,

    "Think about the race in 42 - consultants and lobby groups would have decided who they liked and strong-armed the rest not to run so they wouldn't split the vote",

    I'm thinking if anyone tried that there would be a scandal.

    "OK, powerful groups, if you want this candidate you can darned well do the campaigning and we'll find something else to do!".

    Don't know much about 42 but is there really so little grass roots infrastructure that if powerful people want someone to run there is no money and no volunteer base to support anyone else? Is the district that spread out that it can't be walked?

    Under the current system, years ago, the House Maj. Leader recruited a candidate to run after someone had already filed. 2 quality people fought it out (there was a 3rd candidate who came in 3rd) each with their own volunteers and campaign base. The already filed candidate defeated the recruited candidate and won the general election.

    I'm just not seeing all the evil things suggested as a result of this ballot measure, as many such things have happened under the current system over the years.

    As far as parties inviting independents to vote in their primary, that's like saying "your taxes and our taxes pay for the same primary voting system, but you only get to vote in our primary if we invite you".

    Those not registered in major parties still vote in general elections. Are you that afraid of the unknown that you don't think they should have a say in nominations unless they went to the trouble to register with a party in April and re-registered NAV in late May or June? And you wonder why this might pass?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    I consider myself a reasonably smart guy, but I still can't understand why party insiders are so hostile to the Top-Two concept.

    There may be rare exceptions, but party (and other) insiders are hostile to anything that threatens their perceive power and authority.

    What is wrong with using group affiliations as a way to structure our social and political lives?

    In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this. The problem comes when members of social and political groups are "afflicted by blind or some other form of loyalty to some person, ideology, a party or other group" without regard to ethical principles or the rights of others. A most obvious example for anti-war people is support among Republicans for the war on Iraq in spite of evidence of there being no justification for this war to the point of elected officials in Congress reneging on their oaths to uphold the Constitution, especially after a lecture by Senator Robert Byrd.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Bill, I agree. And the habit of "if you are a Republican/Democrat, that means you believe..." drives people away from parties unless that is what they believe.

    There was a time when Republicans believed in problem solving, but they don't any more. This year the Democrats have been a lively party, but there were some very dry years.

    So what about the person who admires Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel? Which party do they belong to? Is it impossible to be a pro-choice Republican? How about a Democrat who represents a state like the one Jim Webb represents or a district like Oregon's 2nd? Tim Walz won a Congressional seat which had been Republican. Is he supposed to vote like people in deep blue districts? There were people here at BO who argued with Darlene Hooley's voting record, but by golly she's retiring undefeated!

    There was a time in Douglas County when there were two rival factions and whichever one got elected to county party offices, the other stayed away until the next re-organization. There was also a time when the state central comm. passed a resolution (by a small margin) supposedly saying "what all Democrats believe" except there were fewer than 50 people voting. They represented all registered Democrats in the state? Hardly likely. It was taken by some to be an insult to then Sen. Pres. Kitzhaber, so at their next meeting his home county disavowed the state resolution.

    With regard to "What is wrong with using group affiliations as a way to structure our social and political lives?", it may come as a shock that some people with long experience in politics (long time volunteers, former party office holders, former campaign managers or treasurers, etc.) who don't regard politics as their whole lives and structure their social lives around something other than political party. In a free country, they have that right.

    It would be a very interesting project to find the names of State Central Comm. members, Platform Committee attendees, people who attended delegate selection conventions at the state and cong. district level and compare them. Of the people on those lists in 2008, how many were there in 2004? 2000? In the 1990s? In the 1980s?

    Organizations exist as long as they are relevant to people's lives. If some people drop out that is OK if new people replace them. But a theory about how people organize their lives is more academic than about real life.

    And about those 3rd party concerns: Years ago a friend of mine ran in a statewide race the year there were so many 3rd party candidates that the Offical Abstract of Votes needed 2 pages to list all the names. My friend got the most votes of any of the 3rd party candidates (came in 3rd in a multi-candidate election). A year later he was fed up with the infighting in the party he had represented. He joined another 3rd party which then restructured. Perhaps parties are less important to most people than some activists might think. I know there are people who get tired of party infighting and find a different activity (perhaps as different as a musical group) with which to occupy their spare time.

  • Ian (unverified)
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    OI writes, in response to Jenni:

    Jenni: But people at all the meetings I've been to have been pretty adamant that it will be members of the Party who choose the nominee of the Party.

    OI: Political parties will have endorsement power if Measure 65 passes, not nominating power.

    To OI: I think Jenni's point is about implicit negotiating and strategic power, not just legally defined authority.

    Suppose the party command names a nominee. Sure, defectors can theoretically put their name on the ballot. But ultimately, cooperators can be rewarded, and defectors can be punished, in a variety of ways, both within and beyond the electoral process.

    People can debate, at some point, whether this type of strategic power grows or shrinks because of Measure 65.

    I'm not trying to launch that debate; I start with the opinion that parties' implicit power to reward and punish would grow significantly. But my point for now is: we ought to be careful to account for how this measure changes the parties' real strategic power, not just authority.

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    Pete Forsyth: The parties may move their endorsement processes out of the publicly-funded electoral process...but how exactly is that a problem?

    I just start to sneeze all to hell in smoke filled rooms, that's all. That little "endorsed by" marker will be valuable enough to cause knife-fights, and I would so hate to see blood on the floor in DPO meetings.

    But hey, if you want to return to the days where political bosses decided everything behind closed doors, you have a right. I just don't agree.

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    Steve R. wrote: Louisiana has this year restored party primaries for its congressional elections, but it continues to use the "top two" (popularly called the "open primary")

    This is not correct. An "open primary" is a system whereby a voter can choose a ballot upon walking into the booth (a "semi open" primary) or one where a voter can vote within parties by change across races (hence, vote in the D presidential primary, the R Senatorial primary, etc). Neither restrict participation only to voters who previously declared a party.

    The proposal is NOT an open primary. It is popularly referred to as a "non partisan blanket", "jungle" or "top two".

    It is really not a primary election at all (from wikipedia: "In other words, primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the following general election.")--it is a first run at a general election.

    This is why I it to the two-stage or runoff elections used in many presidential systems (France, Peru, other Latin American nations).

    Calling it an "open primary" is misleading.

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    Bill, I am not wise enough to be able to discern when group membership is some "other form of loyalty" such that it "violates ethical principles or the rights of others."

    I honestly don't get what you are saying.

    The first time you posted, though, you wrote that if we want elections to be vehicles to choose the best candidates we need above all else an electorate that is well-informed and can think independently.

    All I'm trying to suggest is that in the 200 plus history of democracies, across dozens of countries, we have not found a better vehicle to allow people to make a well informed choice than the institution of the political party.

    You and I may both desire a system where people are well-informed and think independently, but I don't know of any such system that has existed, ever.

    The voting public has always and everywhere relied on intermediary organizations--interest groups, political parties, the mass media, social groups, labor unions, fraternal organizations--to help them make sense of the political world.

    And no, LT, I am not only talking about party, I am talking about the everyday fabric of daily life. This is not an academic theory, it's reality.

    If we remove political parties, people quickly replace them with other shortcuts and inferential devices. That's OK--as Ian points out, just understand what you're doing, and don't rely on myths about voters.

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    Jenni -- "their legal right to nominate a person"" -- can you quote a statute?? I've never heard of such a right.

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    Pete Forsyth: Jenni -- "their legal right to nominate a person"" -- can you quote a statute??

    It's not a statute. It the Constitution. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly naturally includes the right of the assembled people to: 1) exclude people from that assembly (so long as that decision isn't made on Constitutionally barred grounds - like race, religion, etc.), and 2) make a collective decision.

    What this law does is say that David Duke can call himself a "Democrat" and put a little "(D)" by his name when he is running for office, even if his clear intent is to damage the Democratic party by tricking Democrats into voting for him, and splitting our votes so that only the top two Republicans win.

    To use business speak, party labels are brand names. When someone votes for a Democrat or a Republican, they know pretty much what they're getting. What this law does is the political equivalent of allowing just anyone to set up their own "McDonalds" and serving things the real McDonalds has never had on their menu. Except we're talking about public policy.

    It's a fine way to lie to the public. But don't pretend it has anything to do with serving them.

  • Just Bloggin (unverified)
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    Unrelated but mentioned in JS's post:

    This year, Barbara Kyle, who ran against Nick Kahl in the HD 49 primary, said the caucus recruited her even though Kahl was already running.

    Is Future Pac a Caucus? Caucus sounds like a democratic process.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Paul G: Let me put it this way. The problem is not in belonging to a political party or other group. Being a member is mostly a way of getting things done and can be beneficial to society. The problem comes in when loyalty to a party or other group is in conflict with doing what is right.

    Let's take a non-partisan example. A kid is one of several friends who have behaved in a good way for years. For some inexplicable reason one of the more dominant kids decides to commit some crime - beat up on some homeless person, rob a bank, or some other dumb idea. If your kid was one of this group, what would you want him to do - be "loyal" to his friends or oppose the would-be leaders and refuse to participate?

    On a national level we have the absurd mantra - "My country right or wrong." This has helped to ensure that this nation has habitually been guilty of doing things that are wrong, dragging down that other portion of the American population who believe in doing what is right to enhance respect for this country. Unfortunately, during the last few years the former have prevailed over the latter so that from being one of the more respected nations in the world the U.S. is now the opposite.

    I just finished a very interesting book - "Washington's War: The American War of Independence to the Iraqi Insurgency" by (former British General) Michael Rose. As the sub-title suggests Rose compares events in the former fight with the latter currently under way in Iraq. During the war of independence there were people in Britain opposed to it, but they kept silent because it would have been seen as disloyal to the military. Ring a bell? Their "loyalty" probably helped sustain that war longer than it should have been, much as is the case with the demand for "loyalty" to our military in Iraq, which means, as in the Revolutionary War, more needless deaths, mayhem and draining of the treasury.

    There is loyalty and misguided loyalty and it is in our and the nation's interest to know the difference.

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    Bill Thanks for clarifying. We're in complete agreement. Sorry if I'm being contentious.

  • FO (unverified)
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    There were people here at BO who argued with Darlene Hooley's voting record, but by golly she's retiring undefeated!

    By golly, so is George W. Bush.

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    It's not a statute. It the Constitution.

    As I understand it, the court has ruled that political parties have no absolute right to nominate a candidate. If the state recognizes a right to a nominate, then the parties have a right to designate their own nominee. However, if the state does not recognize the right for political parties to nominate, then no associational right comes into play.

    What the Open Primary grants political parties is an endorsement, not a nomination.

    I'm not sure I understand Steve's argument. Right now, David Duke or anyone else can file and run as a Democrat for any partisan public office in the primary and have their name appear that way on the ballot regardless of whether the party wants it or not. That doesn't change in the open primary.

    The only change insofar as the ballot design is concerned is that a candidate's party affiliation will be printed along with any partisan endorsements that the candidate may receive. So you may have something like this:

    <h2>Candidate Party Affiliation Endorsements</h2>

    John Kroger Democratic Democratic, Republican Steve Maurer Democratic Pacific Greens

    etc...

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    Correction: Anyone can file and run for partisan public office as a member of a major political party, if they were registered as a member of that party for at least 180 days before the primary election. I do not believe that this requirement will change under the Open Primary.

  • LT (unverified)
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    "What this law does is say that David Duke can call himself a "Democrat" and put a little "(D)" by his name when he is running for office,"

    On the Washington ballot, candidates (like Brian Baird and his challenger) had "prefers Democrat" after their name. What in the language of Measure 65 (the language, not assumptions about it) governs what is printed on the ballot in Oregon?

    Steve, where in the constitution does it say "freedom of assembly" allows the way parties operate today? It would be interesting to hear one of Oregon's retired (thus not having to make a future decision) Supreme Court justices on the subjects debated here. Look in the Oregon Constitution and try to find political parties or legislative caucuses. I've never been able to find mention of legislative caucuses.

    All due respect, Paul, were you at all active here in Oregon in the 1984 presidential primary? It was the greatest philosophical debate I can recall during a primary. The Mondale view was very much like you said,

    "The voting public has always and everywhere relied on intermediary organizations--interest groups, political parties, the mass media, social groups, labor unions, fraternal organizations--to help them make sense of the political world."

    Many Mondale people said things like "my union endorsed Mondale" or some other group they belonged to, or used language like "the train is leaving the station..."(Didn't Hillary Clinton's campaign use the same sort of language, aided and abetted by most of the major media, prior to Iowa?).

    The Hart campaign (I know, I was local volunteer coordinator) was composed of individuals--many on their first campaign--who were impressed by specific ideas, speeches, legislation. There were veterans involved due to his crusade for Judicial Review of Veterans Claims, for instance. The Jackson campaign also attracted individuals. When the primary was over, Hart got 59% of the vote and Mondale split 41% with Jackson--who got maybe 11%.

    After the primary and the convention, "Hart people", a group defined as "each Hart person is an independent cuss" stayed together as a social group for years. I was nominated to State Central Comm. and 5th Dist. Central Comm. by a Hart person. Some Hart people were county chairs, and in one case a local party changed their bylaws at the last minute to prevent the local Hart coordinator from running for county vice-chair (not their finest hour). Others were candidates for party office, elected or appointed to party office. We drove the "established" Democratic Party nuts! Rules Comm. chair and 1988 Platform Comm. elected member were Hart people. The party process is remarkably open for those who have the time and energy---but these days many people's lives are too full for such activity.

    Just Bloggin, legislative caucuses are made up of those elected in a political party (House Dems, Sen. Rs, etc.) They generally meet after the election to choose their leadership in closed meeting. It took something like 100 ballots to elect Vera Katz the first woman Speaker back in the 1980s which was written up by a national columnist. Without party, there would have to be some other organizing principle. But the 15-15 St. Sen. showed that the sun does still rise and set even if there is not a majority and minority caucus to organize the chamber.

    With regard to Kyle being chosen by FP even though Kahl was running, didn't I read that Kahl got the nomination?

    FP is a creation of a legal fundraising political entity (check C&E reports in the old pre-Orestar format--which I think is easier to read) which did not exist until about a decade and a half ago. I'm not sure it would legally be considered the "voice of the caucus" unless it could be proved that all 31 members chose, for instance, to recruit one person over another---that is more likely assumed power than legal power. My guess is that, since any election changes the membership of the caucus (a collection of those elected in that party to that chamber), newly elected members could decide among themselves to change or end it.

    Back before FP, a strong majority leader tried the same tactic, and the recruited candidate lost to the already filed candidate.

    I'm guessing one of the motivations behind people signing the petition for this measure is the "my caucus right or wrong" straight party votes among Republicans--as if their caucus, not the voters in their district, elected them. A Republican incumbent of that stripe who I hear has never attended a school board meeting while in office is holding a "literacy" town hall next week ---I heard that from a friend.

    Just finished listening to the audio book of TIPPING POINT which talks about mavens and other types of people, not just about groups.

    Paul, the reality of my life as a 30 year somewhat burned out political activist is that individuals have the power to overcome the operation of groups. I've seen it happen.

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    Oregon Independent: I'm not sure I understand Steve's argument. Right now, David Duke or anyone else can file and run as a Democrat for any partisan public office in the primary[emphasis added] and have their name appear that way on the ballot

    While anybody can slap on a party label and run, it is up to party voters to decide whether that label truly applies, so that when the general election rolls around, people who aren't political junkies, can tell who is who.

    Now I will admit that ballot access is treated differently by the courts than Free Speech, so you are correct that ballot exclusionary nomination is not a fundamental right of free association. So if you want to term the nomination process under this proposal a mere "endorsement", you can. ( Courts routinely twist the clear meaning language like this - which is how, for example, you can go to jail for weeks without being charged for a "crime" - because then you would have the right to a jury trial. )

    But the fact is that, in any important contested cattle-call primary (for an open Congressional seat, for example) this so-called "endorsement" will effectively be the party nomination, and a virtual guarantee to move on into the general election. And that party nomination will be determined, not by all registered members of the party, but by a vanishingly small number of party insiders.

    So no, I'm not making a Constitutional argument that this law is illegal. I'm making the simple observation that, when the stakes are high, this will do the exact opposite of what its authors intend, and take us back to 19th century politics, with all its attendant backroom dealing, sleaze, and dirty tricks. (Especially on the GOP side, if history is any indication.)

    Kari is crowing that Washington State, which has no open-seat races this year, hasn't yet fallen apart under this system. Well you know what? A year after Measure 5 was passed, Oregon hadn't truly felt the impact of that budget busting law. Sometimes it takes a while for the effects of a bad law to have its full impact.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Bill Thanks for clarifying. We're in complete agreement. Sorry if I'm being contentious.

    On the other hand, perhaps I should have been more specific with my first comment.

  • (Show?)

    Oregon Independent is wrong. Under M65, anyone can change her voter up to the 70th day before the primary election (say, to R) and run with the designation on the ballot of "Registered: Republican". It does eliminate the 180 day registration requirement.

  • James Frye (unverified)
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    I am absolutely opposed to M65. We're not in the uni-party Deep South and as a Democrat I don't want Republicans, the Constitution or (George Wallace's American) Independent Party "helping" decide who my party's candidate for anything is in November. This is omnipartisan wishful thinking nonsense that opens the door for all manner of primary election hijinks. Why in the world Oregon would want to be just like Alabama or Mississippi is beyond me.

    Is it to get more actual decline-to-state independent voters to vote in the primary? It's their choice not to participate in political parties, and that non-participation should extend to when the parties decide on their candidates.

    I can understand why two former Secretaries of State would think this is a good idea - all they see is increased voter turnout. That's fine for the general election, but allowing everyone to trump the wishes of people who care enough about a party to actually register as a member of it when it comes to who will be on the ballot in the general election is a REALLY BAD IDEA.

    Besides, someone help me with the years this happened, but one party already tried this when the Democrats opened up their primaries to non-party voters. There was no big increase in voters in the Democratic primary, in fact the effect was so neglible that the party soon dropped the idea. There's no reason to expect any change in non-party voter participation with this ballot measure....there are plenty of reasons to expect any number of Rush Limbaugh-style "Operation Chaos" crossover voting to ensure one party faces the weakest possible opposition.

    Just say NO to M65.

  • (Show?)

    James Frye -- it's not what you're thinking. The common definition of "open primary" is not what Measure 65 is. No Operation Chaos.

  • LT (unverified)
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    James, were you around when McCall and Clay Myers and the other Republicans were common sense problem solvers? Or when Republicans and Democrats debated everything out in the open instead of the recent behind-closed-doors, "my caucus right or wrong" nonsense?

    Read FIRE AT EDEN'S GATE to get some idea what those days were like. Or the recent Oregonian editorial which Kari linked to on the "Quick thoughts, home ownership div." topic.

    Oregon has not always been as nasty and polarized as it is now. The 1984 Oregon delegation vote was delivered at the SF Democratic convention by a legislator running for Sec. of State who said, "Oregon, the land of clean air, clean water, and clean politics casts...."

    There are people now who don't believe that is true any longer. Measure 65 is a chance to return to those days when individuals mattered as much as political consultants, political organizers, etc. Maybe that is why some people oppose 65.

  • (Show?)

    LT I'm sorry, but M65 will do exactly the opposite of what you are suggesting. The consultants and political organizers will have more say than ever if the measure passes.

  • (Show?)

    M65 says that a candidate registered with a particular party 70 days before a first round election will have "registered: (party name)" after their name, while NAV's have the option of having "no party," or a blank space. Political parties may endorse one candidate, with the designation "endorsed: (party name)" after the candidate name, and endorsement of the same candidate by multiple parties allowed.

    As Steve Maurer and Jenni Simonis (and Katy?) have suggested, that endorsement could be valuable, a source of internal conflict, and potentially a source of patronage and denial of patronage politics. It would be possible and maybe likely for parties to make rules restricting party officials from endorsing or working for non-endorsed candidates. To some extent the new technological mechanisms of fundraising might reduce the significance of that.

    Nonetheless it clearly is the case that party endorsement will require a new, prior, third phase of candidate selection, which will not take the form of a primary election, and thus have a narrower base of decision-makers, possibly a much narrower one, as Jenni and others have said.

    Parties cannot prevent individuals from registering as members. But Oregon law restricts the naming of parties. One restriction was that a word used in and existing party's name cannot be used in another, to avoid intentional or unintentional confusion -- e.g. no Democratic Republican Party, no Pacific Party, no Green Constitution Party, no Libertarian Republican Party. I believe that the Freedom Socialist Party sued over this a few years ago, the Socialist Party already being recognized, and won, with the support of the SP. I am not sure if anything is left of the law though it remains on the books.

    A footnote: another restriction is that no corporation in Oregon may use the word "cooperative" in its name unless it is actually organized as a cooperative in corporate form. I have wondered if this was just aimed at private for-profits engaged in a form of false advertising, or if it also was intended to prevent resurrection of the Cooperative Commonwealth League or related parties or organizations.

  • (Show?)

    LT,

    You apply the same false logic as the Oregonian. If primaries cause polarization, why didn't they cause polarization in the 1970s??

    This gauzy nostalgia for the golden era of Oregon politics is just stunning in its ignorance of the large historical and political changes that have occurred in this country.

    We had cross party coalitions back in that era? It's because the two parties were straddling the great issues of race and foreign policy (anti-communism).

    That era has ended. And what ended along with it are the conservative wings of the Democratic party in the South and the moderate wings of the Republican party in the NE and West.

    The era of McCall was the era of Nelson Rockefeller, Prescott Bush, John Lindsay, and Lowell Weicker. And that era is over. Oregon loves to trumpet it's uniqueness, but in this respect, it is simply following national trends. Read "Off Center" by Hacker and Pierson and you'll get a better sense of why the GOP fields such ideological candidates.

  • (Show?)

    Nonetheless it clearly is the case that party endorsement will require a new, prior, third phase of candidate selection, which will not take the form of a primary election, and thus have a narrower base of decision-makers, possibly a much narrower one, as Jenni and others have said.

    I disagree. The likeliest outcome is that the Democrats and Republicans will continue to sit it out in the primary as they currently do, and support the party's nominee in the general election.

    When there are two nominees from the same party in a general election (i.e., MacPherson and Kroger) there will be significant internal pressure, particularly in the Democratic Party, to make sure that the party's endorsement process is open, inclusive, and fair to the grassroots.

    Also, I don't see caucuses as tantamount to "cigar-filled rooms of the 19th century". I see them as recruitment opportunities for parties to engage more people in grassroots democracy. I have faith that the netroots and the grassroots will not sit idly by and let a handful of political bosses dominate the process.

    Also, these fears of "election hijinks" is largely unfounded. We should have such problems as 10 people who want to run for public office in any given race. The truth of the matter is that political parties have a very difficult time recruiting candidates in the majority of races around the state, which is why two out of five statewide races and 44 percent of legislative races including eight out of fifteen races for the Senate are uncontested in the general election.

    Voters deserve a real choice on the November ballot, paticularly in the 65 legislative districts that are so gerrymandered that the opposing major party has NO CHANCE of winning in November.

    What the concerns ultimately come down to, in my view, is a fear of change. I weigh that against a process that is more inclusive and fair to the majority of Oregon voters who don't have a say in who will appear on the general election ballot in a majority of races.

  • (Show?)

    You apply the same false logic as the Oregonian. If primaries cause polarization, why didn't they cause polarization in the 1970s??

    In the 1970's, 85 - 90 percent of legislative districts were not uncompetitive. Candidates were not as rewarded for appealing to the party's base as they are today in those districts. The main structural difference is that we replaced dual member districts with smaller, single-member districts that are more susceptible to the kind of gerrymandered system that we have today.

    Another major difference is that through 1973, Oregon had limits on campaign contributions that prevented special interests from setting the terms of the debate for candidates. Prior to 1973, it would not have been possible for an individual or organization to punish candidates for supporting the "wrong bill", such as a PERS reform, by giving $350,000 to their opponent in a partisan primary.

  • (Show?)

    I could be wrong in what I think, you could be right.

    But please explain this "What the concerns ultimately come down to, in my view, is a fear of change. I weigh that against a process that is more inclusive and fair to the majority of Oregon voters who don't have a say in who will appear on the general election ballot in a majority of races."

    I get the idea that some people object to NAVs not being able to vote in primaries. LT, who has been one and respects them, says they are 22%. How do we get from that to a majority who don't have a say? Unless you're referring to people who choose not to vote in primaries?

    The top two system won't fix that. Non-partisan primaries at present have much smaller turnouts than generals.

    I am somewhat curious what people think about the fate of major parties in "safe" districts. I'm thinking particularly of ones where voter registration identification may be determinant. It seems like it could mean more people who decide to be Ds despite the limitations in R safe districts registering R to have a chance on ballot, and vice-versa in D safe districts.

    One could have different views whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose, but before getting to that, does that possibility seem likely to others?

  • (Show?)

    I am somewhat curious what people think about the fate of major parties in "safe" districts. I'm thinking particularly of ones where voter registration identification may be determinant. It seems like it could mean more people who decide to be Ds despite the limitations in R safe districts registering R to have a chance on ballot, and vice-versa in D safe districts.

    I'm not sure I follwed the second sentence quoted above, but I believe that in "safe districts", such as Chip Shields', we are going to see some instances of two D's running, or the possibility of more credible third party challenges. Imagine, for example, HD43 where there are 27,000 Democrats and 2,000 Republicans. Would the following race likely be more competitive than a traditional race between a D and R in such a district?

    Candidate      Affiliation  Endorsements
    --------------------------------------------------------
    Chip Shields   Democratic   Democratic, Working Families
    John Smith     Green        Green, Independent 
    
  • (Show?)

    Sorry for lack of clarity. I can imagine that scenario there and comparable ones in the opposite direction involving either Libertarians or Constitution Party in some "safe R" districts. N.b. t does sit in some tension with the argument that top two would increase orientation to the center, but I think that's overvalued anyway.

    But what I was asking about was, what happens to the Rs in the district above? Do they just lump it?

    Or to take the opposite case, which is more relevant around here and perhaps in a different sense because of the current relative trajectories of the Ds and Rs in the state, what about a district that at present is "safe R" but where Ds with the right strategy and candidates and commitment of resources have an opportunity to bring it into play in a few cycles?

    How much does that process depend on having a candidate in the general? Could top two create situations like in the old Jim Crow South where everyone who wanted to be elected (& who wasn't racially excluded) had to be a Democrat? So that people who might under the current system choose to be Democrats and work to build a viable DP instead would choose to be Republicans because that becomes the only viable path to top two status?

  • LT (unverified)
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    An answer from someone who remembers the 1970s:

    "You apply the same false logic as the Oregonian. If primaries cause polarization, why didn't they cause polarization in the 1970s??"

    The answer is this: the 1970s were before the Reagan and then Rove era. There were people in politics who actually had manners!

    Sure there were nasty people at the national level during the Nixon years. But most people weren't like that. There was a downtown Salem Dem. campaign office right around the corner from a similar GOP campaign office--maybe 1974. People signed up to work in the office--I was one who signed up one night a week as one of the volunteers to keep the office open, do clerical work, talk to anyone who might want to come in.

    One day when I was there, a well dressed woman came in from the office around the corner with a couple of lawn signs. They were Democratic signs someone had brought in saying "Look what I did, I uprooted those Democratic signs and I want you to have them". The nice lady brought them around saying she wanted us to know that was not the way they operated. That's what politics in Salem (and pretty much all over Oregon) was like in those days.

    Hard to believe now, but the year Norma Paulus decided to run for Sec. of State, there was a primary for the Dem. nomination in her old district. One of the candidates was a law professor who lived in a nice neighborhood just south of downtown. People in his neighborhood volunteered on his campaign because they knew him (regardless of whether they were true blue Democrats). One woman living in a beautiful house had a mailing party (rather than use a mailing service, mailings were put out by volunteers). While we were stuffing envelopes, she told us about the other campaign she was working on---Gerald Ford against Reagan in the Oregon primary. She was excited because she was one of a number of volunteers had been chosen to meet Betty Ford when she came to Salem. In her own way, Betty Ford was the Hillary of a previous generation---VERY outspoken for a First Lady.

    Which is why I wonder about theorizing like "that people who might under the current system choose to be Democrats...". Comments like those by Paul G. make me wonder how long some people here have been involved in grass roots politics.

    And Paul, I am reading Lincoln Chafee's new book about his years in the Senate as a moderate Republican and how he thinks a 3rd party is possible. But I don't think party identification is very strong among most people. Many of the people I know are more along the lines of "Wasn't Ben Westlund the guy who ran as an independent for Gov. and we went to that one function at a local restaurant---and now you say he is running for St. Treasurer"? At that function were people who had been active Democrats, active Republicans, or just wanted to find out about this guy. Looking at all politics through a partisan lens (or on a spreadsheet of previous results and party registration) is not going to win those folks over as much as personal communication.

    I hear Cong. Sestak has told Obama that the way to win in Penn. is to visit a coffee shop for breakfast, a hoagie place for lunch, and a diner for dinner, and talk with people in a way that tells them Obama is listening to them. Nothing partisan in that--any intelligent candidate should know there are people who want to meet a candidate, hear one in person, or know someone who has heard the candidate in person.

    As for those times of moderate Republicans never coming again, we don't know that. I know from social conversation that some moderates think the only GOP candidate with any chance of being elected Gov. next time around is St. Sen. Frank Morse. You may not like Sen. Morse's voting record on everything, but he was a real workhorse on the Public Comm. on the Legislature---esp. the issue of fixing the corroded pipes because there should be safe drinking water in the capitol. His staff were great problem solvers who understood customer service. And he is a dignified, nice person---in the mold of McCall, Clay Myers, and many more recent Republicans on the national level like Chafee, Jeffords, Snowe and some of the others who prove that it is possible to be a Republican and still be polite.

    But then, I'm not a lifelong Democrat, I'm a former McCall Republican of the sort whose vote the Reaganite GOP decided they didn't want to compete for anymore because we were "not their kind". So we became active Democrats, and then in some case got burned out on "all good Democrats believe..." and became independent thinkers, however we registered and voted.

    The GOP have lost both legislative and Congressional majority and maybe it will dawn on some of them that "slash and burn" wins fewer elections than their consultants would like to believe.

    That ol' poll question "How does the candidate rate on cares about people like me, understands my problems, will make my life better?" is not a partisan question.

  • (Show?)

    Chris,

    Why would you think that in a close "almost swing" district, the weaker party would be unable to make it into the top two?

    I lost the second-closest legislative race in Oregon in 2006, in a district that I maintain is fully consistent with your example. In 2006, the voter registration edge for Republicans was 2800, today is is 600.

    How will the open primary hurt my chances in 2010 if it passes (though I curently have no intention of running for the legislature)?

    If I were to run, the general election ballot might look something like this if the Democratic candidate, Al Hanson, loses this year:

    Candidate         Affiliation     Endorsements
    ----------------------------------------------------------
    [ ] Jim Weidner   Republican      Republican
    [ ] Sal Peralta   Independent     Independent, Democratic
    

    By the way, I think your example of the Jim Crow south is more apropos to the current state of affairs.

    A candidate from the weaker of the two major parties CANNOT win in 60-65 out of 75 legislative districts in any given election cycle. If you want to get elected in Eastern Oregon or most of southern Oregon, you currently have to be an R. To win in inner-PDX, you must be a D.

    This reform, at a minimum, will give voters an honest choice in November. In Portland, you may be choosing between a labor Democrat and a chamber of commerce Democrat. In Eastern Oregon, you might be choosing between a social conservative Republican or a libertarian Republican. But at least there will be an honest choice.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Thanks, OI!

    I still maintain the Backlund/Thatcher District 25 situation is a reason for this measure. No one has ever explained why that isn't true--maybe too busy theorizing to talk about an actual case?

    And look at the registration changes. We were told for years by FP types that "lousy R to D ratio" governed all decisions (whether it actually did or not).

    Meaning "impossible " races in earlier years are now possible because of registration changes?

    I can think of a local district which never had a victory margin for the R that was over 1000. We had strong candidates with strong local ties. But until it was won, there was a lot of anger at what seemed like game playing by people who didn't live in the district but thought they should have a say in how the campaign was run.

    Living in the district where the first Democrat ever elected was Jim Hill, I know that back in the early 1980s people said "you're nuts to think any Democrat could win in S. Salem, esp. a black Democrat" until he won. But never were the words "lousy R to D ratio" used. Of course, that was before FP was created.

    I think what worries some people is that this idea could return control over legislative elections to the people who actually live in the districts. And yes, Paul G., that is what went on in the 1970s---people living in a district were the ones who made decisions on who ran for the legislature. I lived in Norma's district until she ran for higher office, then 2 local candidates decided to run in the primary.

    Paul G., I'd like to know your experience with legislative elections prior to 1990. Dave Dix, who was the last Democratic Majority Leader that year, may have lost the House for the Democrats by his actions --esp. on campaign finance. But for all the talk these days, in District 60 a female Democratic candidate (think of that, not only a Democrat, but a woman!) lost to a long term incumbent Republican by only 55%-45%. A woman running in that district was big news back then.
    In what is now Dist. 19 (where, btw, we have a strong challenger in Hanten Day), in 1990 a Democratic farmer (whatever you folks here might have thought of his politics, he was a D and thus helped keep majority for years) defeated a Republican farmer who would later be elected state rep. and be a crusader for water quality issues.
    Dave Dix himself lost by about 900 votes, and in the following election, that district was again won by a D. And the district in Yamhill County was won by a Bunn brother that year. Was that a partisan win, or a win by a member of a strong local family ?

    And yes, folks, back then there were still moderate Republicans in the legislature. It may have been term limits churning people in and out of the legislature (as if there had never been turnover otherwise) which caused so many polarizing legislators to be elected.

  • RW (unverified)
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    ...gerrymander... ??

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Kari,

    You point out that certain fears about top-two primaries were not reinforced by Washington's elections, but I see little in the results to recommend the system either.

    There is plenty wrong with US elections. I do not see M65 doing much to remedy that. Serious campaign finance reform or instant runoff voting would be much more beneficial than a top-two primary.

    Several commenters believe M65 will lead to more moderate candidates. Just what we need: more status quo elected officials! With top two, there will not even be minor party candidates on the general election ballot to offer an alternative to the "moderates."

    Then there was the mediocre turnout, which suggests that top-two does not unlock the pent-up political passions of the electorate. M65 looks like deck-chair rearranging to me.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Tom, why does moderate mean status quo? St. Sens. Frank Morse and Ben Westlund and Kurt Schrader have actually gotten things done. But none of them is an extremist, or even an ideologue.

    One thing I would like to know about the current system: there was a news item today also mentioned here: http://www.politickeror.com/brittenchase/2405/smith-campaign-nrsc-budget-shortfalls-will-not-affect-reelection-bid

    NRSC Chair John Ensign (R-Nev.) released a statement Monday morning saying that, because sitting members of the U.S. Senate did not transfer as much money to the NRSC as expected, the NRSC would have to scale back how much money they give to competitive Senate races.

    "I recently challenged my colleagues to step up to the plate and help me provide the resources our candidates need to compete in races across the country. It has become clear that my call has gone largely unanswered.” Ensign said.

    ...... "Stepping up to the plate"? Passing some of their contributions along to the caucus Campaign Committee? Do their contributors know where the money is going, or aren't they supposed to care?

    Do FP and St. Sen. Dems require something similar of legislative candidates?

    Something is needed to break the partisan nastiness and backroom dealing (when Minnis was Speaker, did any budget meetings held in public mean anything?) and return us to the days when open hearings actually made decisions and budgets were actually hashed out publicly in Ways and Means Comm. meetings when business was done openly.

    Ending pass throughs to the caucus campaign and to other candidates (if legislators want to help someone else, they could send the check back with a note "please contribute to ---- who really needs it", I have heard of legislators who did that in the past) is a needed reform. But I think this got on the ballot because voters were tired of hearing "my party right or wrong, my constituents are secondary".

    Claiming that moderate means both status quo and mediocre is not a way to win friends and influence people.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    LT wrote:

    Tom, why does moderate mean status quo? St. Sens. Frank Morse and Ben Westlund and Kurt Schrader have actually gotten things done. But none of them is an extremist, or even an ideologue.

    "Getting things done" does not suggest a move from status quo. Passing budgets is getting something done, but since they are passed each session, doing so hardly represents change. "Moderate" elected officials can effect change, but the likelihood of it is not great.

    Real change usually begins as a radical proposal from the fringe, which is co-opted by moderates in order to placate the electorate. If those with divergent ideas are eased out of the campaign conversation [as supporters of M65 claim it will do], the political waters will grow stagnant and change less likely.

  • (Show?)

    ...gerrymander... ??

    Can you think of a better way to describe a system in which 85 percent or more of our state legislative districts and 90 percent or more of our federal congressional districts are non-competitive in general elections as a result of (usually) partisan redistricting?

  • LT (unverified)
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    What we need in Oregon is a more open, public redistricting process. As I recall, that is what Phil Keisling did when he was Sec. of State. The Republicans didn't want their district lines made available to the public. When I did see the Congressional map, Yamhill County was in the 5th Cong. District. Why? No reason given. There apparently weren't any maps citizens could see regarding legislative districts.

    But also, with regard to this, "...federal congressional districts are non-competitive in general elections as a result of (usually) partisan redistricting?", Repbulicans have given us ( in the lifetime of the 5th District) such nominees as Denny Smith, Jim Bunn, Zupancic and Erickson.

    Jackie Winters vs. Darlene Hooley might just have been competitive. The nominess, though, mostly insulted our intelligence. That wasn't because of the way the district was drawn.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Tom, did you run for the legislature once? What real change did you propose?

    Real change could come if the legislators under 35 voted as a bloc, it could come the way it did when there was a 31-29 House and 10 women in the 1970s banded together to pass bills which they considered needed reforms but some might have considered radical. Look at the way the legislature tackled the Public Comm. on the Legislature ideas. Not all of them got debated, but some of them did. And the debate in the PCOL meetings was as open and intelligent as anything I have seen in the last decade at least in the legislature--esp. since Snodgrass overthrew Speaker Lundquist.

    Oregon was one of the first states in the 1980s to pass bills actually helping veterans and calling on Congress to do more (2nd state to pass an Agent Orange bill, for instance).

    But those came from concrete proposals, not just from " a radical proposal from the fringe" or "those with divergent ideas ".

    Some of the candidates FP dismissed in recent years as being from impossible districts with "lousy R to D ratios" --about as effective a way to have those candidate "eased out of the campaign conversation" as anything I can think of---had some interesting ideas. But people have to win legislative seats before they can pass laws.

    The recent rural convention which says they will come up with concrete proposals to present to the next legislature could be a new force in politics. Ted Ferrioli talking about concrete proposals and not just GOP ideology is a radical idea right there. :) (I've known him for years and for much of that time he didn't want to discuss details.)

    Yes, we do need more discussion of actual issues and concrete legislation ( of the "I like the concept, but the language in Section 5 of HB 1234 bothers me because...variety). Tom, what concrete proposals would you like the next legislature to consider?

  • (Show?)

    Tom, did you run for the legislature once? What real change did you propose?

    LT - Tom did run for the legislature. He was definitely a change agent, and was one of the people who was dismissed as running in a lousy district, losing one of the closest races in Oregon history.

    That said, I think it's fairly well established that most of the legislation that I believe firmly cemented Oregon's progressive legacy -- preserving the state beaches, the bottle bill, and our land-use laws were all the product of bi-partisanship and "radical centrism", and were not imported from the fringes -- though I agree that the New Deal and many of the labor laws were responses to "fringe" demands.

    If you have spent time looking through old ballots at the state archive, you might be surprised to see how many socialists and communists were on the ballot from the 890's through the 1940's in this state.

  • LT (unverified)
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    OI. thanks for the history lesson. The flip side is also true. If one wants to learn about early 20th century Oregon history, a good source is Steve Neal's biography of Charles McNary. (Neal is perhaps the most famous graduate of McNary High School, in what is now Keizer.)

    McNary was for decades the longest-serving Oregon US Senator--Hatfield lasted a year or 2 longer, but only because McNary died in office due to complications from surgery. McNary was the 1940 Republican VP nominee. He was instrumental in bringing public power to Oregon---why a dam is named after him as well as many locations around Salem.
    The KKK took over the Oregon legislature and tried to outlaw Catholic schools. That is one of the famous US Supreme Court cases involving Oregon. The Society of Sisters of the Holy Names sued Gov. Pierce (according to what I just looked up online) and the Supreme Court struck down the Oregon law.

    As I recall, McNary's term was about to end while the KKK controlled the legislature. McNary was asked if he would come home to campaign. He made some crack like "if the KKK is still in control, I'm not sure Oregon is a place I would like to live". He got re-elected anyway.

    Say what you will about Minnis, Scott, and some other recent legislators, they were never THAT bad.

    Change requires elected legislators to craft a bill, have hearings, get the bill out to the floor, get it passed in one chamber, and then do the whole thing again in the other chamber. (FIRE AT EDEN's GATE has a great account of all the attempts to kill the Bottle Bill, but Betty Roberts carried it on the floor of the Oregon Senate, and it passed. ) We need legislators who will make sure the process is open and ordinary citizens can have input. In the end, however, it can come down to a number of factors. I recall the end of a session one year when a reform bill landed in a conference committee. The chair wanted to kill the bill. 2 other members of the conference committee didn't much like each other, but had come to loathe the chair of the conference committee. So they voted the bill out of conference committee, it got to the floor, and it passed.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    LT wrote:

    Tom, what concrete proposals would you like the next legislature to consider?

    Here's a few ideas:

    • Activate Article XI-D of the Oregon Constitution, State Power Development which was added to the Oregon Constitution by citizen’s initiative in 1932.

    • Refer to voters a constitutional amendment to allow limits on campaign contributions to political candidates.

    • Increase the personal deduction for Oregon income tax and add a higher income bracket.

  • RW (unverified)
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    OI: bingo. Gerrymander. And redistricting - more of it, just different, eh. Won't be color-blind. Call me yellow, errrrr jaundiced. Needed, but won't be fair and square.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Tom, those are good ideas, and if we could get people elected who would act on them, it would be great.

    We need an extensive debate on reforming the whole Oregon tax code and budget system. But I don't think it will happen the way you say, "Real change usually begins as a radical proposal from the fringe".

    As I recall, there are people in both parties (who, if I'm not mistaken, included over the years Max Williams, Ben Westlund, Lane Shetterly and Frank Morse, no one's version of radicals).

    I esp. like "Refer to voters a constitutional amendment to allow limits on campaign contributions to political candidates" because a legislative referral would go through committee hearings rather than just having chief petitioners arguing among themselves.

    There have been Republicans who did smart things and Democrats who did stupid things, this isn't a partisan issue. But back to Measure 65, I think it would allow people who do not now fit the image of "in order for that person to win the primary, they have to appeal to the base".

    The law of unintended consequences could come into play here, and what is predicted may not be what happens if it passes.

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Oregon Independent said, There is no aspect of the open primary that will make it "impossible" for minor political parties to make the general election ballot.

    I said NEARLY impossible. If you look at the history of Louisiana's "top two"-- as well as the history of California's and Washington state's blanket primaries-- you'll see that minor party candidates and independents almost never got elected, or even finished in the top two.

    The final choice in a "top two" is almost always between a Democrat and a Republican, two Democrats, or two Republicans.

    When the two final candidates are from the same party: not only is that party split, but the other parties' faithful voters are effectively disenfranchised.

    James Frye says, I am absolutely opposed to M65. We're not in the uni-party Deep South...

    I appreciate your opposition to the M65 monstrosity, as I've been arguing against this concept for years. The Mississippi legislature passed the "top two" (popularly called the "open primary") five times between 1966 and 1979. Its implementation was (thank God!) blocked each time. In the meantime, Louisiana began using it for state and local elections in 1975 and for congressional elections in 1978. Again: Louisiana has heretofore been the ONLY state to use the "top two" for all of its state and congressional elections (and LA has restored party primaries this year for its congressional elections).

    Most Southern states (AR, TX, TN, MS, AL, GA, SC, VA) use the classic open primary: there is no party registration, and each voter picks a party on primary day.

    The "uni-party" South is ancient history. In TX, TN, MS, AL, GA, and SC, both U. S. senators are Republicans. Seven of the 11 former Confederate states now have Republican governors.

    The Louisiana "top two" system is indeed part of the refuse of the old one-party (truly NO-PARTY) system, in which elections were decided in the Democratic primary, with a Democratic runoff if necessary.

    ~~ Steve Rankin Jackson, Mississippi

  • Steve Rankin (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Both of North Carolina's U. S. senators are also Republicans, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr.

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