The person who recently hurled a padlock out the window of a passing vehicle at a Republican candidate for the State Senate, who was jogging along the side of the road, may have had no political motive at all. But as the police investigate, some here already consider the incident one more example of the politics in this state veering toward the extreme.
… In wake of the incident, a bipartisan group has stepped forward with a remedy for what members describe as the lack of moderation in the state’s politics. Voter registration records indicate disaffection with both parties, as independent voters increase in numbers and both registered Republicans and Democrats decline. By doing away with partisan primaries, the newly formed Open Government Coalition says, more independent voters will participate in choosing candidates and more moderate voices will emerge.
“No longer will candidates be able to appeal to just 10 or 15 percent of the electorate,” said Joe Yuhas, an Arizona political consultant and a former Democratic assemblyman in New Jersey, who is working to put the open-primary measure on the ballot next year. “As it is now, the system is broken.”
Arizona would not be the first state to move away from partisan primaries. California endorsed such a system last year, following the lead of Washington State, which has had a “top-two” primary since 2008.
Neither political party in Arizona has yet to weigh in officially on the plan, but an effort to create open primaries in the state was fiercely opposed by both the Democrats and Republicans when first proposed in 1998.
“The two extremes have co-opted both parties, which they’ve done through low-turnout primary elections,” said Paul Johnson, a former Phoenix mayor who ran as a Democrat for governor but later changed his registration to independent. “What we’re trying to do, simply put, is to force all candidates to face as many voters as possible.”
Mr. Johnson, who is spearheading the open-primary measure, is joined by Carolyn Allen, a former Republican state senator; Paulina Mooris, a former Republican candidate for Congress; and other centrist leaders.
Over the years, Arizona has experimented with varying ways of keeping the politics of the state from drifting too far to the left or right. In 2000, voters endorsed the creation of an independent redistricting commission to take the drawing of political boundaries out of the hands of politicians. Two years before, a ballot measure was approved allowing independent voters to cast ballots in any party primary they choose. The latest change would go further, replacing party primaries with the kind of nonpartisan elections that currently take place in most Arizona cities.