by Jim Nintzel
Ted Downing, the former Democratic lawmaker who is running as a independent against Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud in midtown Tucson's Legislative District 28, has decided to forgo Clean Elections, saying it's stacked against him.
Downing, who lost to Aboud in a Democratic primary for the Senate seat in 2006, avoided the Democratic primary this year by running without party affiliation. He'll face Aboud and fellow independent Dave Ewoldt in November general. Downing says he decided to run as an independent to show his commitment to his new crusade against partisan elections.
Here's Downing's letter to the Clean Elections Commission:
I am running for the State Senate as a nonpartisan candidate, stressing the need for fundamental political reform to end to legislative gridlock, specifically downsizing the state legislature to a 45 member, nonpartisan unicameral.
I wish to point out how the Citizens Clean Election Law and subsequent rules contributes to the furtherance of partisan legislative gridlock by making it very difficult for nonpartisan candidates to participate on a level, financial playing field with partisan opponents.
As background, please recall that in 2000, I was
Arizona’s second Clean Election’s candidate and its first for Southern Arizona. I enthusiastically supported the campaign finance reform, hoping it would change dysfunctional Arizona politics by giving us a broader spectrum of office holders. This did not happen.
My original request to be a Clean Elections participating candidate occurred while I was a partisan candidate.
Only as a nonpartisan candidate did I become fully aware that the Citizens Clean Elections Law and the subsequent Commission rules gives an unfair, if not arguably unconstitutional advantage to partisan candidates. Nonpartisan candidates receive 70% of a partisan candidate’s funding, even if the partisan candidate is unopposed in his/her primary, as is the case in my race. A partisan candidate who is unopposed in a Primary obtains government funding for their primary race, but need not debate nonpartisan opponents. And, were matching funds in place, Party assistance to partisan candidates as not counted as a financial contribution, compared to nonpartisans who, by definition, are excluded from access to external funds. Moreover, the nomination process and membership on the CCE Commission sets up a supermajority, partisan Commission structure.
The result, on the ground, is that nonpartisans are less likely to run. Only 4 of the 244 legislative candidates this year are nonpartisan. This pattern has repeated itself year after year. Consider that, Statewide, 30 percent of registered voters give no party preference (cf. Republicans 32.7 percent and Democrats 30.5). Not a single nonpartisan candidate has been elected in the last decade.
We must give Arizona citizens the right to vote on a Constitutional amendment for a “top two” nonpartisan primary election system which gives all citizens the freedom to vote for any candidate for political offices, regardless of political party preference. If this change were to come about in 2012, as I working to make happen, the Citizens Clean Elections Law would need extensive revision or repeal.
Even without this change, the Law needs fixing. I request the CCEC forms a study committee to make recommendations to the next session of the legislature to correct these fairness issues in the law.
Finally, coupled with other serious reservations that I have developed about clean elections, I have decided, effective immediately, to withdraw as a 2010 participating candidate.