Posted by Kellie Ryan on February 03, 2015 at 12:00 PM
The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman says Top Two offers path to something radically promising
Opponents of Top Two Nonpartisan primaries often claim that this type of primary system limits voters' choices by narrowing the general election to two candidates. Actually, a Top Two Nonpartisan Primary gives voters more real choice – more power - by allowing them to engineer competitive November elections, instead of predetermined “elections-in-name-only” controlled by the parties.
According to David Wasserman, a senior analyst at The Cook Political Report, Top Two Nonpartisan primaries is a reform whose time has come.
“Washington is broken has become the biggest cliche in campaign advertising, yet the Democrats and Republicans who say those words on camera are more often than not playing a role in an electoral system that further entrenches dysfunction and rewards the extremes. Many Americans would be surprised to learn that fewer than 10 percent of voters at each margin of the political spectrum are effectively choosing more than 90 percent of the members of Congress.”
Wasserman’s piece on the impact of Top Two in Washington State is a must read. In the 2014 midterm election for U.S. Congress in Washington's Yakima Valley, two Republicans received the most votes in the state's Top Two primary, sending two Republicans on to the general election.
Incumbent Dan Newhouse was seen as the more moderate of the two candidates. He had built a reputation of being willing to compromise, getting along with almost everyone. Challenger Clint Didier was the Tea Party "hero" who received endorsements from Sarah Palin and Ron Paul. Didier finished first in the Top Two primary. Newhouse was second and Democratic candidate Estakio Beltran finished third. Wasserman says,
"If the race had played out in any one of the 47 other states with a winner-take-all primary system, the contest would have effectively ended right there: Didier would have won the GOP nomination, and given the district's heavy Republican edge, would have crushed Beltran in November."
Instead Newhouse won the general election with the help of Democratic voters and moderate Republicans who disagreed with Didier's extreme Tea Party agenda. Though Top Two primaries certainly will not solve all of the issues the American people have with Congress right now, this election shows it can make a big difference. According to Wasserman,
"At the very least, Dan Newhouse's victory over Clint Didier in Yakima shows that a top-two primary can offer a path towards something radically promising — that if the rules of the political game are adjusted, the center can indeed hold."
Interest in primary reform continues to grow. Stay tuned….!