Coming Around to the Top Two

I still think a closed primary is better than an open one. But I’m coming around to the system we have. So reading my friend Ray’s piece on the California top 2 system, here are some rambling thoughts on the process here.

The goofiness of having Democrats run against Democrats in a general election is both the main hurdle to acceptance and what I’ve come to like about it. So, yeah, it makes it tougher for Democrats to elect the most liberal person in liberal districts. And it makes it tougher for the Democrats to control who is their nominee.

On the other hand, we’ll have campaigns in 2 of Seattle’s Legislative Districts doing independent GOTV. It can help statewide elections to have local elections that matter. And, I like having some choice in November.

I’d prefer if we went back to the old system, or better yet had a primary where Democrats couldn’t help pick the Republican nominee or Republicans pick the Democratic nominee. But I’m not as opposed to the system as I was when we got it.


  1. 1

    SJ spews:

    Carl ….

    Good to see your evolution on this issue.
    I think to top 2 system does hurt traditional party politics, but I feel the answer is to change how the parties use the process.

    The Wadems could, if they had the discipline, still nominate candidates and support them as the official PARTY candidates even in the Primary,

    The advantage to the Party is that it can decide on the process it wants to use. For example, the GOP and DEMS could limit voting in a contest for their nods to registered party members.

    Of course the danger is that the Party choices might loose in the top 2 primary. That would, in my opinion, be good because it would force both parties to select candidates that can win.

    As an example, it seems to me that the mess in the first would be easily resolved if the Dems held their own primary to endorse ONE candidate. If Darcy won that contest amongst Dems but Susan and Laura ran anyway, Darcy’s chances would be greatly enhanced. Of course the same would hold for Susan or Laura.

    In any case, there would be a huge incentive to build the parties since the candidates would have a high motivation to convince their supporters to register.

    Makes sense?

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Squawk * Flap! ‘It’s Obama’s Fault! Squawk * Flap!

    Predictably, Rmoney is blaming Obama for the lousy May jobs report. Never mind the U.S. economy is being driven lower by Europe’s recession and China’s slowdown (how does Obama control that?). This guy will say anything to get elected, even if he has to make shit up. Why would any voter trust someone like that? The only explanation is some people are still dumb enough to vote Republican.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Republicans smell blood — so much so, they’re dropping social issues and banging out a new tattoo on their garbage can lids — jobs, jobs, jobs!

    The problem is, in the two years since they captured the House, they haven’t done a damn thing about jobs … not even talk about it … because they were too busy waging war against women, gays, students, the elderly, the unemployed, the hungry, and Muslim-Americans.

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: And never mind that their idiotic economic policies created the jobs problem in the first place.

  4. 4

    Moag spews:

    And it makes it tougher for the Democrats to control who is their nominee.

    The point of the top two is that there are no party nominees. Instead, there are the two candidates who won the support of the most voters. This is why the parties hate it (and I love it).

    And it is true that it is harder to elect, for example, the most liberal candidate among the Democrats in a strongly Democratic district (or the reverse for the Republicans). Under the old system, that candidate could win the primary and then have no serious opposition in the general. But the top two makes it more likely to elect a candidate who best represents the district as a whole.

  5. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 2: It isn’t as if the May jobs report showed job losses, as it did during Bush’s presidency. It just didn’t show that many job gains as were hoped – especially not as many as Wall Street had hoped.

  6. 6

    Moag spews:

    Also, to pre-empt the third party folks who like to complain about the top two system: The top two system is actually a benefit for third parties.

    It is true that this system keeps third parties off the ballot when those third parties win only a few percent of the votes. But making it to the general election ballot, only to win a few percent of the votes, is no victory.

    A real third party victory would be winning the election. And if a third party candidate can run a serious campaign, strong enough to win a significant number of votes and get through the top two primary, then that candidate would actually get a better opportunity in the general.

    Consider a liberal Democratic Seattle district, with a fossilized old Democratic elected official. If a candidate from the left ran a serious campaign, they could knock out the Republican in the primary, and have a clear shot at the Democrat in the general. That is the best way for third party candidates to win elections.

  7. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 1: I happen to agree. There is nothing I could find which would prevent either party from “pre-selecting” their preferred candidate going into the primary.

    On a system-wide basis, I like that the purpose of the primary is simply to narrow down the candidates to a manageable level for the general ballot. The election office shouldn’t be in the business of deciding who is the proper candidate for either party.

    The open-two primary is blind as to the major parties, which ostensibly gives third parties and those who don’t get along with the party regulars a shot at the general ballot, if they can persuade enough primary supporters. If the parties want to instill some party discipline, they need only to have their own primary mechanism – in advance of the primary ballot – which weeds it out to one “official” party candidate.

  8. 8

    Michael spews:

    I’d prefer if we went back to the old system, or better yet had a primary where Democrats couldn’t help pick the Republican nominee or Republicans pick the Democratic nominee.

    It’s simple. If the Democrats and the Republicans want a closed primary, they can hold their own elections, using their own people, and pay for it themselves.

    As long as the Democrats and Republicans use public resources and the people of Washington are paying the bill everyone should get to vote and they should be able to vote for whomever they want.

    I like Top Two, this way every election goes to general election. Prior to Top Two we were seeing more and more elections decided in the primary.

  9. 9

    SJ spews:

    Unfortunately a lot of political activists just do not understand that the party share of the electorate is sinking.

    This is the problem with Burner running in the first. Her fanboys, including Darcy herself, mistake partisan support for popular support. Darcy is popular with pray activists in Redmond but she is way of base with the typical business types who will decide the election in the new 1st.

    If she “wins” in the primary, the 1st will be forced to choose between Darcy’s obsession with national politics and Koster’s image as a local guy. He could lose if the Dems can paint Koster as extreme but that is hard to imagine if Darcy is his opponent.

    That is wh I think the Dems should choose their candidate in a Dem primary or caucus. I suspect DelBene would win that but whoever did go into the first level election with a powerful endorsement.