Top Two Primary Measure Looks Like a Winner, Unless …

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The Top-Two Primary measure, Proposition 14, shows signs of winning in June despite passionate opposition from all the political parties in California.

The Public Policy Institute poll showed Proposition 14 with a commanding 60% to 27% lead, with Independent voters, who swing many an election in California, solidly behind the measure, 67% to 19%.

The Top Two Primary system allows the two highest vote getters in a primary election, regardless of party, to face-off in the general election. Major political parties fear they will lose power and influence if the measure passes. Smaller parties are concerned they could disappear all together with their candidates failing to grab one of the top two spots in a primary and not appearing on the general election ballot.

Historical evidence indicates Proposition 14 is in good shape with voters. Over a decade ago, Californians embraced a blanket primary with 1996’s Proposition 198 (later tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court). It passed with nearly 60% of the vote, the same total, Prop 14 enjoys today. The Yes campaign spent about one million dollars, ten times what the No campaign spent in 1996.  I have no inside information with either the Yes or No side for Prop 14, but it appears from state records the spending spread for Yes over No will be about the same this time around.

While history seems to be working in favor of a positive outcome for Prop 14, so do modern times.

Independents are stronger, with much more influence, than fourteen years ago. The movement of independent minded voters who want to buck the establishment has already churned up the political process by rejecting old hands Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Robert Bennett in Utah while jumping on newcomer Rand Paul’s bandwagon in Kentucky.

There is certainly passionate opposition to Proposition 14. Republican official Tom Del Beccaro, who has already written in opposition to the measure on this site, recently produced on his own Political Vanguard website a list of six reasons why Prop 14 must be defeated.

Much attention in political circles was drawn to the Center for Governmental Studies 124-page report that concluded up to one-third of legislative and congressional races could produce a general election contest of opponents from the same political party. In most cases, those candidates will be Democrats.

Yet, it appears the No side must do a bang-up last minute job of reaching the voters to turn the tide on Proposition 14. Opponents’ biggest advantage might, in the end, be voter turnout, or lack thereof.

It is not clear how well attended this June election might be. There are few major contests on the Democratic side, and, according to some pundits, the rank-and-file Republicans may be turned off by the harsh, negative campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate. If turnout is low and mostly hard-core party voters come to the polls, they may take their party’s recommendation and vote No.

From my vantage point, that may be the best hope for the No on 14 forces to prevail.

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