Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Arizona Primary Election Round-Up Column

My proposed headline was "That's Why They Make Them Run The Horses" but the editor went with something more, ahem, personal. Those who "subscribe" to my Tribune column by email may not get this week's edition because of the verboten words "Jenna Jameson" and "porn" may trigger spam filters. But those words may drive traffic to this blog (especially if I also mention Paris Hilton....)

East Valley Tribune, Sep. 17, 2006

People always knock primary elections as boring and low-turnout affairs, and this past week’s was no exception. Low turnout, few surprises -- mainly because nobody knew what to expect. But you can’t dismiss an election that made both Len Munsil and Jenna Jameson happy.

For those of you living outside metropolitan Phoenix or in a cave, the Scottsdale City Council, spurred into action by the folks who enjoy deciding what you can do with your leisure time, reacted to the world-class porn star (and Scottsdale resident) purchasing one of two strip clubs still allowed in the city by adopting a lap-dancing ordinance. Jameson’s promoters responded by gathering enough signatures to refer the ordinance to the voters, which was held in conjunction with the statewide primary.

The referendum campaign was somewhat unusual, with the two sides casting themselves as fighters of crime and protectors of neighborhoods on one hand, and defenders of “small business” on the other. I loved the “small business protection” stuff. Like many other aspects of this particular topic, it’s not real, but guys like it anyway.

Joining Jameson in celebrating the results (but little else) is GOP gubernatorial nominee Len Munsil, who has spent his life as one of those folks who enjoy deciding what you can do with your leisure time. The GOP race baffled the usual prognosticators, who couldn’t decide if Munsil’s religious right connections would outperform Don Goldwater’s famous name.

As it turned out, there wasn’t much turnout, and so-called “lower-efficacy voters” who might have been distracted by Goldwater’s nephew’s famous name didn’t show, but the more-connected actual voters knew that the name and some DNA was all that Don shared with Barry. The intelligence, vision, and independence? Not so much.

So Munsil won comfortably, but it's worth going behind the numbers. The final results aren't available yet, but it looks like Munsil won an essentially two-man primary (the two fringe candidates combined for less than 10 percent) with slightly over 50 percent. Looks good.

But compared with 2002, not so much. Approximately 283,000 people voted in the 2006 Republican primary. While we can't tell how many of those were registered independents who requested a GOP ballot, with just over 1 million registered Republicans in the state, turnout will be around 24 percent. Thus, Munsil got his 50 or 51 percent by getting 143,000 votes.

In 2002, however, current GOP state chairman Matt Salmon won a three-way race with two statewide officeholders, Secretary of State Betsy Bayless and State Treasurer Carol Springer, with a slightly better percentage. But turnout was apparently at least ten points higher at 34 percent, so Salmon got his 56 percent by getting 174,000 votes, some 30,000 more than Munsil despite approximately 100,000 fewer registered Republicans in 2002.

You see the punch line coming, don’t you? Not only is 2006 very, very different than 2002, but Len Munsil? He’s no Matt Salmon.

Next, notice how any campaign involving soon-to-be-former state Rep. Colette Rosati turns nasty? Maybe it's not the campaign, but rather Rosati.

And on the Democratic side, if you’re trying to understand how Jason Williams defeated former state Sen. Slade Mead, who was endorsed by the Arizona Education Association, for the superintendent of public instruction nomination, you’re not alone. The people who ran Williams’s campaign can’t explain it, either.

Finally, there’s a bit of pundit cherry-picking going on with the GOP results. Randy Graf’s 43 percent victory in the U.S. House primary in District 8 in southeastern Arizona, where two high-profile moderates split that vote, is being touted as showing the power of the immigration issue. But in the statewide GOP gubernatorial primary, the candidate with better anti-immigration credentials (Goldwater, with Russell Pearce’s endorsement and a misleading robo-call from Minuteman leader Chris Simcox) lost handily to Munsil (who was mushy on guest workers, and who was endorsed by immigration-haters’ hated John McCain).

So apparently immigration is the key issue for 2006 -- except when it isn’t.

1 comment:

Zelph said...

Re: Jason Williams' primary victory: I think that some Democratic primary voters were a bit suspicious of Slade Mead's Democratic bona fides given that he was a registered Republican until recently. They thought that perhaps he should "pay his dues" as a Democrat before running for a statewide office as one. At any rate, this was a viewpoint that I heard from some Dems. Don't know how common it was. I was not one of those who thought this way. I voted for Slade, but have absolutely no problem with Jason Williams.

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