It didn’t come up in this week’s debate, but in Michele Reagan’s plan for the secretary of state, there is a good idea I’ve long tub-thumped for: moving Arizona’s primary election to June.
Arizona’s primary used to be in early September. The county recorders lobbied to move it to late August, to give them more time to prepare for the general election.
Holding an election in late August in Arizona, however, is nuts. And it still doesn’t give candidates with contested primaries time to get healthy for a general election campaign. The election calendar shouldn’t discourage contested primaries or stunt general election debates.
This cycle, the late primary has favored the Democrats, who generally cleared the field for their candidates for state office, while Republicans had a number of sharply contested races. But the shoe can just as easily be on the other foot.
In 1994, Arizona had an open U.S. Senate seat. Democrats had a spirited primary that actually required a recount. Republican Jon Kyl, a congressman at the time, didn’t have a primary. By the time Sam Coppersmith, also a sitting congressman, was finally declared the Democratic nominee, Kyl was primed to bury him. And did.
Coppersmith probably didn’t have a chance against Kyl regardless. But if the primary had been in June, at least it would have been a fair fight.
Legislators are naturally hostile to the idea, since it would require them to campaign during the legislative session. And the idea hasn’t had a true champion, just a cranky columnist.
Having an advocate in the secretary of state’s office could give the idea some traction.
Reach Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RJRobb.