Claiming they’re being ignored by John McCain and Jeff Flake, Republican state legislators took the first steps Tuesday to allowing them — and not the voters — to choose who gets to run for the U.S. Senate.
On a 6-3 party-line vote, members of the House Committee on Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy approved a a measure which would give lawmakers the power to nominate Senate candidates. Legislators from each political party would choose two nominees for each open seat, with the four names going on the general election ballot.
HCR 2022 now goes to the full House. If it gets approved there and by the Senate, the change would have to be ratified by voters in November.
In essence, the proposal would partly return Arizona to the way things were prior to 1913 when U.S. senators were chosen outright by the legislatures of each state, with no popular vote at all.
The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution overruled that, providing for direct election of senators in the same way voters get to choose members of the House of Representatives. But Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, said nothing in that amendment requires a popular vote to determine who gets to be on that general election ballot.
Grantham argued that his measure would bring Arizona back closer to the original intent of the Founding Fathers who wanted the Senate to be not only a check on the popularly elected House but also to be responsive to the states and their lawmakers.
That argument hit a responsive chord with Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott.
“Does anybody think that Sen. Flake and Sen. McCain pay any attention to the Legislature of this state?” he asked.
“I think not,” Campbell continued. “They don’t talk to us, they don’t consult us, we’re irrelevant to them.”
Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, agreed that the state’s U.S. senators pretty much ignore state lawmakers.
“I’ve called a number of times to try and get help,” he said.
“I don’t even get a secretary,” Finchem explained. “I get a voicemail that says, ‘We are currently not taking any more messages.’ ”
But that’s not the only problem Finchem has with the current method of choosing senators.
“The purpose of the Senate and the way it was originally constructed was to exempt it from the passions and the emotions of the people,” he said.
“What we have now is 100 panderers,” Finchem said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve got trillions of debt.”
Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, said one problem with what HCR 2022 proposes is that it limits nominations to political parties that have representation in the Legislature. That, he said, effectively takes away the voice of the one third of Arizonans who are politically unaffiliated but, under current law, allowed to vote in the Republican or Democrat primaries.