One argument that opponents of a wide-open primary system such as the one proposed on the Nov. 2 ballot by Proposition 62 is that allowing voters of one party to cross over and vote for candidates of another opens the way for political mischief-making.
Political strategist Garry South tried to put that issue to rest today when he spoke on Proposition 62 at the Sacramento Press Club. He used an example from his own foray into mischief-making to illustrate the point.
In 2002, when South's client, Gov. Gray Davis, was unopposed in the Democratic primary, South clearly saw former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as the most formidable challenger should he be the one to emerge from a three-way Republican primary. South spent $1 million on television ads designed to shake voter confidence in Riordan. The ads were at least a contributing factor in conservative Bill Simon's come-from-behind victory in the GOP primary.
Under the current primary system, South said, Riordan had to appeal in the Republican primary "to a closed universe of very conservative voters. He never understood that. We got him six ways to Sunday."
On another topic, South said he, like most Republicans, believes that California's system for drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries should be taken out of the hands of the Legislature and given to a nonpartisan third party. But any attempt by Republicans to try to blow up the current districts by proposing a mid-decade redistricting, South said, is destined to fail.
He called the idea "stupid, idiotic" and predicted that if it makes it on the ballot "it will go down in flames and we'll be right back where we started."
The only way to persuade Californians to pass a redistricting initiative, he said, is to make the effort truly bipartisan and to put something before voters that wouldn't take effect until the next scheduled redistricting, in 2011.