The New York Times has been obsessing over the top-two primary initiative in California, both in the runup to the vote and now that it passed. (In a top-two primary, the top-two vote getters go through regardless of party.)
But the NYT reports: "No one actually knows what the real effect of Proposition 14 will be."
What? Is Washington State chopped liver? While the Times does note in passing that "Proposition 14 is based on a system in place in one other state, Washington, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2008," they hardly show any curiosity on how it has worked out here.
Have moderates carried the day? Have Independents had more success? We've been doing it since 2008. This year is our third election cycle with top two. Just off the top of my head, I can see that it's had an impact.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom expressed in the NYT article—that the top-two system helps moderates—in Washington this year, top-two has actually given life to lefty Democrats trying to take out moderate Democrats. I'm thinking of David Frockt's campaign, which some could argue, forced conservative-ish longtime incumbent Ken Jacobsen in Seattle's 46th District to step down. There's also Lillian Kaufer in the 44th District, running against conservative Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs; she picked up the endorsement of the Washington State Labor Council. This kind of intramural action is not common and it's typically verboten. I'd say the top-two system, which bypasses official party endorsements, is a major reason that dissidents are stepping up.
And certainly there's a huge impact this year in the context of another story that the NYT (and the media in general) have been obsessed with: The Tea Party.
The Republican's establishment candidate for U.S. Senate—Dino Rossi—has dodged a bullet.
As Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance—a big Rossi supporter—told PubliCola a few weeks ago:
“If we had a system like Utah and you had to fight for the nomination that would be frightening right now. Those dozens of [Tea Party] activists would have real power.”
"It will be annoying," he added about the Tea Party, "but it’s not going to make any real difference.”