The wealthy and influential backers of California’s Proposition 14, the top-two open primary, constantly argued that a top-two system would result in the election of more moderate politicians, and would decrease the number of liberal Democratic and conservative Republican politicians. However, the top-two system was responsible, in part, for the defeat of one of California’s “blue dog” Democratic member of Congress, Joe Baca. See this list of the 25 members of the “Blue Dog” Democratic caucus in the U.S. House, just prior to the November 2012 election. “Blue dog” Democrats hold themselves out as moderate Democrats.
Here is a Sacramento Bee story about how Congressman Baca lost to a more liberal Democrat in November, State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, in the 35th district. In the 2012 primary, the only candidates in that district were Democrats Baca and McLeod and a Green Party member, Anthony Vieyra. Baca received 45% of the primary vote; McLeod received 36%; Vieyra received 19%. McLeod won in November because, in October 2012, Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent $3,000,000 in independent expenditures for McLeod and against Baca. Bloomberg desired to defeat Baca because Baca generally voted almost 100% in favor of the National Rifle Association’s agenda, and Bloomberg is a fierce opponent of NRA positions.
Top-two systems produce random election results. Top-two systems are just as likely to help elect an “extremist” as to elect a “centrist.” Louisiana, which has by far the most experience with top-two (37 years for state office), easily demonstrates this, but most political analysts and reporters don’t examine Louisiana’s experience with the system.
Another reason that McLeod beat Baca is redistricting. Half of the 35th district was new territory for Baca, but the district was almost co-terminous with McLeod’s former State Senate district.
Gloria Negrete McLeod is by no means an “extremist”. She is merely a standard California Democrat, in the mainstream of her party. While she was in the State Senate she had a 31.8% ranking by the anti-tax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is fairly standard for a Democratic member of the California legislature. Thanks to PoliticalWire for the link to the Sacramento Bee story.