Independents' power increases - Tucson News Now

Independents' power increases

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Independents are now the largest voting bloc in Arizona, surpassing the GOP by a few thousand registered voters.

And in last night's primary, it can be argued independents played a role in the defeat of two Republican incumbents, Attorney General Tom Horne and Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal.

It may not show up in numbers, but it's part of an attitude shift.

Bad behavior won't be tolerated anymore and both had a history of slip ups.

A party which wants to gain or retain power must do more than pay lip service to the independent voter.

Most independents were affiliated with one party or the other until the recent past and will say they left the party because it became too extreme.

It doesn't mean extreme candidates will become a relic, they've always been around and will always be, but the more moderate voter will have a say even in low voter turnout elections like a primary.

It effectively takes some of the edge off of the partisan primaries which govern Arizona's politics.

Independent voters in Arizona's primaries can vote either party without changing registration.

That means the independents can support either parties nominee or punish them.

The party establishment is well aware of that and will likely moderate to make sure it doesn't offend too many independents or it will use that moderation to try to bring some voters into the fold. 

"They pay attention," says former State Lawmaker Peter Guidinoff. "They're harder to fool."

It means any candidate running for office has his or her base but it's likely not enough.

"You have to campaign more honestly and you have to take those voters more seriously," he says of independents. .

Arizona is following in the footsteps of California only more slowly and more quietly.

California got rid of its partisan primaries a few election cycles ago but Arizona voters barely voted in down.

"It will come back," Guidinoff predicts "but this is pretty close." 

Both methods reduce the power of partisan primaries.

Partisan primaries have long been accused of fostering extremism and the lack of compromise so pervasive in politics today.

Moderate, independents may change that, especially since it takes only a few of them to affect a low voter turnout election like yesterday's primary.

"When it comes to knowing what's going on, they're not going to be fed a bill of good," he says. "They're not going to buy it."



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