Arizona’s primary election may indicate the tea party is losing some of its influence, public opinion experts said after Tuesday’s vote.
Russell Pearce’s loss to Bob Worsley and Rich Crandall’s win over John Fillmore in East Valley GOP state senate races are signs, “it may be more moderate the next time around,” said David Berman, a senior research fellow at ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy and an expert on Arizona political history. “It might mean there’s a little less of the tea party influence.”
Whether or not that influence continues, history proves more moderates will be out to vote in November’s general election, nationally known opinion expert Bruce Merrill said.
Primary elections tend to draw in the ideologues, those married to one political idea or another, said Merrill, also a senior research fellow with the Morrison Institute.
“They’re really into politics and always vote,” he said. “The higher turnouts bring in the moderates.”
Because of that, Berman said, the rhetoric from candidates will likely change in the next 10 weeks.
That may be especially true in Congressional District 9 where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema will face Republican Vernon Parker, Berman said.
Within CD9’s vast area – Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley – there are also a lot of independent voters, he said.
“I think it’s a fairly moderate district. It’s got the university and a good sized group of independents. I think you’ll find moderate campaigning there. I think that’s an exception compared to most of the state.”
Parker, former mayor of Paradise Valley, won the race over six other GOP candidates with 23 percent of the vote. Sinema, a former state senator, beat out Senate Minority Leader David Schapira of Tempe and former state Democratic Party chairman Andrei Cherny.
“(Parker) is a little unknown outside of Paradise Valley. He’s going to have to make a statement there,” Berman said. “Kyrsten is pretty well known. But I’m sure the Republicans will attack her as a liberal. But she’s a good campaigner and she’s moving toward the middle. I don’t know that the difference will be so striking among them. These two moderates are comparable.”
While that race may be tight, both experts agree that the presidential race will bring out a lot of Republicans, and give GOP nominee Mitt Romney the win in Arizona.
“Even with more moderates coming out, you’ll see the state going for Romney, without any question,” Berman said.
Merrill said that could impact legislative races.
“Right now, Romney has a lot of Mormon backing in Arizona. He’s raised a lot of money here. He’s well organized and I would be surprised if Romney doesn’t carry Arizona. That’s going to make it hard for Arizona Democrats,” he said.
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