When California’s Proposition 14 was on the ballot in June 2010, almost every large California newspaper endorsed it, and the reason for the endorsement was invariably that the newspapers believed the top-two system would reduce the number of anti-tax California state legislators, and instead would boost the election of “moderate” Republicans. In this context, “moderate” always meant a Republican who would not take a hard line against any tax increases.
Proposition 14 boosters were especially hopeful that in legislative races with two Republicans on the November ballot, and no other candidates, that the Democrats and independents in those districts would vote for the more “moderate” Republican, leading to more such Republicans in the legislature.
However, the 2012 election shows these ideas about how Proposition 14 would work were mostly incorrect. California had seven legislative races with two Republicans on the ballot in November, and in only one of them did a “moderate” (on taxes) defeat a hard-line anti-tax Republican. That was the Assembly race in the 5th district, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where Frank Bigelow defeated Rico Oller. Bigelow had refused to sign the “no tax increase” pledge whereas Oller had signed it.
In Assembly District One in northeast California, both Republicans on the November ballot, Brian Dahle and Rick Bosetti were equally opposed to tax increases. The winner, Brian Dahle, was endorsed by the Tea Party, whereas the other Republican, Rick Bosetti, was endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a well-known anti-tax group in California.
In Assembly District Six, in the northeast Sacramento suburbs, both Republicans were equally opposed to tax increases. The winner, incumbent Beth Gaines, was endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Association.
In Assembly District 23, in Fresno, the more conservative Republican, Jim Patterson, defeated the other Republican, Bob Whalen. Patterson emphasized the label “conservative” in his campaign ads, whereas Whalen stressed that he had been endorsed by unions and by three current or past Democratic members of the Fresno city council.
In Assembly District 67, in southwest Riverside County, both Republicans were equally anti-tax. Melissa Melendez defeated Phil Paule, and both are listed as Tea Party candidates. Melendez attacked Paule for having voted to raise water rates while he was a member of the water board, but Paule defended himself by pointing out that water rates are not taxes.
In Assembly District 72, in Orange County, Travis Allen defeated Troy Edgar. Allen’s campaign message was “Stop the endless calls for higher and higher taxes”, although Edgar also said he was opposed to raising taxes.
In Assembly District 76, in northwest San Diego County, Rocky Chavez defeated Sherry Hodges. Chavez had been endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Association and had said he would not vote for any tax increase. Hodges had said, “There may be a time to raise taxes.”
This blog post does not include the instances at which Republican “moderates” failed to place first or second in the June primary and thus were not on the November ballot.
There were no State Senate races with just two Republicans on the ballot.
The reason that the theory used by most California editorial writers doesn’t work is that when there are two Republicans on the November ballot, and one Republican gets a reputation for being the choice of liberals and Democrats, the word gets around in that district, and then the other Republican benefits from a backlash.