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    State of Play

    Arizona: Open Primary Idea Heads East From California

    State Capital Strategies
    Friday, May 22, 1998

    Republican Attorney General Grant Woods (R) and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Paul Johnson have been circulating an initiative to hold open primaries in Arizona. The initiative would allow primary voters to cast their ballots for any candidate, regardless of their party registration. California adopted the open primary system in 1997 and is holding its first open contest on June 2.

    At least one major legislative player isn't a fan of the idea. Sources say state Senate Majority Leader Marc Spitzer (R), worried that the open primary will attract supporters, has offered a Senate resolution calling for a less dramatic change. Spitzer wants to allow the major parties to select their own nominees and minor party voters such as Libertarians and Independents to participate in whichever primary they choose. Officials held a public hearing on the proposal last week.

    More State Political News From:
    Alabama | Alaska | Illinois | Maine
    Mississippi | Texas | Vermont | Washington

    Alabama: TV Takes Over in GOP Nomination Race


    The Republican race for lieutenant governor has moved to the airwaves. State Sen. Steve Windom of Mobile used television ads to promote his conservative message, drawing TV counterattacks from state Sen. John Amari of Birmingham. Amari refers to Windom as a former Democrat who has backed Bill Clinton and an ally of state Sen. Roger Bedford, who has attacked and killed tort reform legislation in recent sessions. The primary is June 2.

    Alaska: Reapportionment, Marriage Definitions on Ballot


    Gubernatorial power and same-sex marriages will be key issues for Alaskans this fall. One of several constitutional amendments would change how legislative districts are drawn and would slash the governor's reapportionment duties, creating a five-member commission to handle the task. The governor could appoint two members, and the state House speaker, state Senate president and state Supreme Court chief justice would each be able to appoint one member.

    A second referendum will allow voters to decide how Alaskan law defines marriage. Legislators have passed measures outlawing same-sex unions, but courts overturned the laws. The ballot amendment declares that any marriage that does not unite members of the opposite sex would not be legally valid.

    Illinois: Campaign Reform Emerges Late in Session

    State legislators got their first glimpse of a long-awaited campaign finance reform package late last week, but it is unclear whether the measure will pass – only two weeks remain in the session. The reforms would restrict both gifts to lawmakers and personal use of campaign funds. While the package does not limit special-interest contributions, it does require campaigns to immediately report large contributions. The measure also requires campaigns to include donors' occupation and/or employer when reporting "large" contributions, and provides for electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports.

    Maine: GOP to Target Democratic French-Catholic Voters

    The Maine GOP is aggressively targeting voters for this fall's elections in an effort to build up Republican legislative strength. Party leaders say their family values platform will appeal to traditionally Democratic French Catholic voters in certain areas of the state (Lewiston, Biddeford, Sanford and the St. John Valley in northern Maine). But the GOP has had only moderate success in those regions, and critics say French Catholics will continue to vote Democratic because of pocketbook issues. Nonetheless, GOP state executive director Rick Tyler promises a targeted push.

    Mississippi: Initiative Underway to Limit Legislative Terms


    State legislators are feeling the pressure from an activist-backed ballot initiative to limit them to two consecutive terms in either chamber. In addition, term-limited lawmakers must spend four years out of their respective legislative chambers before running again. If the secretary of state's office can verify more than 105,000 petition signatures, the measure will appear on the November 1999 ballot. But the approval process may not be that simple.

    Supporters need not only a majority of votes, but also a voter turnout of 40 percent or more or the measure cannot pass. The initiative would, however, be on a crowded, attractive ballot that would include statewide elections and a gubernatorial race. Also, lawmakers will have the opportunity in 1999 to place an alternative such as applying the term limits to all state and local officials on the ballot, further dividing supporters.

    Texas: Farm Bureau Endorsement Key in 'Closest Race in Texas'

    In what many consider a snub to Rick Perry, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, the powerful Texas Farm Bureau endorsed Democratic rival John Sharp. The Farm Bureau is widely credited with helping Perry win election as agricultural commissioner, so the group's defection is viewed as a major blow. While endorsements mean little to voters, they help Sharp raise money. Sources say the Sharp-Perry race remains one of the tightest of this election cycle, and the endorsement assures a continuing aggressive campaign between these two former Texas A&M University classmates.

    Vermont: Criticism Hurts GOP Hopes for Aggressive Campaign

    Things aren't going as hoped for the GOP's promised aggressive campaign season. Last week former U.S. senator Robert Stafford, a veteran Vermont Republican and fiscal conservative, voiced reservations about the party's choice to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. Jack McMullen, a part-time resident of Vermont for the last 15 years, is seeking the Republican nomination to take on Leahy, who enjoys broad support even among conservatives. Insiders say McMullen may lose by as much as 30 percent.

    Washington: Roach Probing State Election Reform Law


    Pam Roach, chair of the state Senate Law and Justice Committee, will hold a hearing June 10 in Olympia on Oregon's voter-approved campaign finance law. Roach, a Republican seeking re-election this year, will assess whether the law – which she has long opposed – restricts free speech. Passed in 1992, the measure limited contributions to $1,100 in statewide races and restricted corporate and union donations. Though the initiative was drafted and backed by Republicans, Roach has never liked it; she is one of the few Republicans with good ties to organized labor.

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