Don’t Blame Ose, Blame Top Two

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Doug Ose has jumped in the race for governor. And already, he’s getting blamed for ruining the chances of a Republican candidate advancing to November’s second round of the 2018 gubernatorial election.

That blame is because of the math of the top two system.

Before Ose joined the race, there were only two candidates who were considered anywhere close to major contenders – John Cox and Travis Allen – running. That’s less than ideal. The best thing for Republicans would be to have one candidate who didn’t split the Republican voters, thereby giving the party the best chance of advancing one candidate to the second round.

But with two, the GOP at least had a chance. There are four Democratic candidates that are being covered as contenders, so if they divide the vote, either Cox or Allen might be able to sneak in.

Ose’s entry probably ends that possibility—a GOP vote divided three ways isn’t likely to be enough.

Which points to the damaging paradox of top two. Ose, in running to give his party more competition and choice, actually hurts his party.

This system of voting was billed as creating competition and choice—but it actually dis-incentivizes competition and choice. That is the very definition of anti-democratic system.

So don’t blame Ose for undermining Republican chances. Blame the top two for undermining democracy.

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