While politicians in Washington figure out how to skirt the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, far more comprehensive Clean Elections systems of full public financing passed tests this year in Arizona and Maine with flying colors.
Democrat Janet Napolitano was the first governor elected anywhere running "clean," as she apparently defeated Republican Matt Salmon 46%-45% with 9% going to two other candidates. Napolitano qualified for public funding by collecting more than 4,000 $5 qualifying contributions from registered voters, while agreeing to strict spending limits and no other private money. In return, she got $2.3 million in Clean Money public funding.
At least six other statewide officers in Arizona, including the attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, mine inspector and at least two of three members of the state corporations commission ran "clean."
State legislatures in both Arizona and Maine, which also has a Clean Elections system, will also have plenty of representatives free of direct dependence on private donors. Nearly three-quarters (26 out of 35) of the Maine state senate will be held by candidates who ran "clean," an increase of nine from 2000. In the state assembly, "clean" candidates won 57% (69 out of 122) of the seats so far, with 29 assembly races too close to call. In Arizona, at least 32 out of 90 members (36%) of the legislature will be "clean," more than double the number in 2000.
"The people of Arizona and Maine should feel proud today," said Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign. "While big money set new records everywhere else, in these two states, scores of clean candidates were elected without owing any favors to private special interest contributors. I especially want to congratulate the statewide winners in Arizona, including the likely Governor-elect Napolitano, all of whom took a leap of faith in running under this relatively new system and showed not only that it worked, but that it was the better way to run."
After maiden runs in 2000 with lower levels of candidate participation, Clean Elections in Maine and Arizona were embraced by candidates and voters in the 2002 elections:
62% of candidates in Maine (231 of 372) and 53% in Arizona (84 of 158) ran "clean" in the general election, about double the rate in 2000.
Participation cut across party lines, with 71% of Democratic candidates and 54% of Republicans running "clean" in Maine and 64% of Democrats and 34% of Republicans running "clean" in Arizona.
The total number of candidates running increased significantly compared to the last off-year election in 1998, and Maine in particular saw a 72% increase in contested primaries. In Arizona, contested primaries increased 30% in the Senate while dropping one-third in the House.
In both states, the number of women running for office rose about 10% over 1998, and women were considerably more likely than men to opt for Clean Elections financing (a reflection perhaps of the difficulties women still face raising campaign funds from traditional sources).
In Arizona, overall participation by Latino, African-American, Native American and Asian candidates jumped substantially. In 2000, there were 13 such candidates in the primaries (10 of whom ran "clean"). This year, there were 37 minority candidates, 21 of whom ran "clean." Gay rights groups also reported an increase in openly gay candidates, crediting Clean Elections for their involvement.
64% of Arizonans expressed support for their state's system of Clean Elections, in a recent poll taken by the Arizona Republic.
For more information, contact Rick Bielke at Public Campaign, 202-293-0222 or see www.publicampaign.org. In Arizona, call Cecilia Martinez, Arizona Clean Elections Institute, 602-462-1113. In Maine, call Doug Clopp, Maine Citizen Leadership Fund, 207-780-8657 x 5.