I delivered a guest commentary on KUAT-TV’s Arizona Illustrated earlier this week talking about the influence of Clean Elections. If you don’t feel like watching it, here’s the script:
While the rest of the country was turning a darker shade of blue, a funny thing happened in Arizona: Republicans gained ground in the state legislature.
It wasn’t supposed to work out that way. The Democrats set out this year to take control of the Arizona House of Representatives. To do that, they needed to hang onto all the gains they made in 2006 and flip four seats.
The political climate could hardly have been more hospitable to Democrats. Besides the damage that the Republican Party brand has suffered in recent years, the Democrats were flush with cash, while the GOP was pretty much broke.
So the Democrats recruited some sharp candidates and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost their slate. But on Election Day, they ended up losing nearly all of the races they targeted.
Down here in Southern Arizona, they weren’t able to win an upset in Legislative District 30, which includes Tucson’s east side and Green Valley. They weren’t able to gain a seat in District 26 on the northwest side. And they weren’t even able to beat Republican David Stevens in Marana’s District 25, even though Stevens wasn’t even in the country to campaign.
I’m sure there are plenty of reasons that Republicans were able to pick up seats in the House of Representatives yesterday, but here’s a major one: Clean Elections, the program that hands out public dollars to anyone who wants to run for office.
Many of the conservative Republicans who prevailed might not have even been in the race—or at least survived their primaries—if they hadn’t been funded with public dollars. It’s kind of funny that these budget hawks have finally found a constituency that they don’t mind handing out welfare to: Themselves.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that helping conservative Republicans pick off moderates in primaries and knock out Democrats in general elections was not the aim of the founders of the Clean Elections system. I guess Arizona’s latest tilt to the right is just what we call an unintended consequence of government reform.
Filed under: Legislative Races |