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Proposal to have state lawmakers choose U.S. Senate candidates introduced

A first-term state lawmaker wants to curb the ability of voters to choose who the state sends to the U.S. Senate.

The proposal by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, would leave intact the general election process where voters get the last word. In fact, he can’t touch that as the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which took effect in 1913, requires that senators be directly elected.

But Grantham’s HCR 2022 would limit their choices in November to only those candidates that state legislators from each major party determine are worthy. And as crafted, those choices would be only Republicans and Democrats: It contains no method for minor parties to name their own candidates, and no way for independents to run in the general election unless they somehow got the blessing and nomination of partisan legislators.

Grantham said change is needed.

Rep. Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert)

Rep. Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert)

“The problem with the current system is that United States senators really have no accountability back to the state right now, Grantham told Capitol Media Services.

“I don’t have any day-to-day, week-to-week, or, quite honestly, year-to-year contact with my U.S. senator,” he said.

“I don’t meet with them, I don’t get to talk to them,” Grantham continued. “And it’s a problem because they’re supposed to be our voice back in Washington.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Prior to the 17th Amendment, senators were chosen by state legislatures. Grantham said this was meant to be a check and balance on the power of the popularly elected members of the House of Representatives.

And Grantham said it created something else: a need of senators to recognize they were beholden to state lawmakers.

HCR 2022 would move part-way back to that process — at least as far as the 17th Amendment would allow.

Under the plan, the Republicans from both the state House and Senate would get together and nominate two people, with the Democrats doing the same. Voters in November would then get their choice from among those four.

The same process would play out every six years as the terms were up. More to the point, the incumbent would have to make the case to legislators that he or she deserves another shot at reelection.

“There’s a very good chance that that person may not get the nomination if they did not work with the state, do things that were in the state’s best interests, and truly serve as a check and balance over the popularly elected House of Representatives that they’re supposed to serve as,” Grantham said.

To get the change he wants, Grantham needs to do more than convince his legislative colleagues to go along.

His proposal would amend the Arizona Constitution which requires voter ratification. But Grantham said he thinks voters could be persuaded to see that the current system of direct nomination of senators does not always get them the best — and most responsive — senators.

And what of the state’s two current senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans as is Grantham?

“Both of our senators have done a lot of great things,” he said. “And they’ve both done things that I think some of us don’t agree with down here.”

But Grantham insisted his plan has nothing to do with either of the incumbents.

“It has everything to do with the process and accountability and being able to actually reach in to the United States Senate from the state that they represent and say, ‘Hey, Senator X, hey Senator Y, we need this help, we need this issue worked on, we need to work with you directly,’ ” he said.

“That is not happening right now,” Grantham continued. “And in my opinion, that’s a broken system.”

His measure has not yet been set for a hearing.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution took effect in 2013. 

4 comments

  1. What planet is this guy from? One of the biggest problems in our political system is that it is an entrenched 2-party system, and his plans cements party power. We are hopefully entering an age, led by the horror of the Trump presidency, in which party power will be challenged constantly, which is good. Democrats have lost their way, due in part to unchecked power, and Republicans are off the charts in terms of serving the rich.

  2. “Democrats have lost their way, due in part to unchecked power…” I think that is part of the mythology that is the problem. That is how people like Grantham get elected in the first place. Please explain to me the “unchecked power” that Democrats have when currently the full political spectrum is all GOP? But somehow still they are not held accountable for anything. That is the REAL frustration. That this kind of crazy is not only tolerated but the GOP sits it comfortably on their front porch and serves it an Arnold Palmer.

  3. Yet another pol who must have failed Civics 101. Where do they get these people? Don’t we have better and brighter?

  4. I must echo Mr. Hudson’w comments: “What planet is this guy from?” Enough said.

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