Moderate Republicans such as Schwarzenegger and Maldonado hope the open primary system will break the Democratic stranglehold and usher in at least a few more moderate Republicans.
Carrick says "Schwarzenegger and other moderate Republicans think [Prop. 14] will be a fix" — by allowing fiscally concerned, more moderate Democratic voters to help elect moderate fiscal watchdogs, either Republican or Democrat.
Carrick calls that a fantasy. Still, he sees Prop. 14 passing in June. "There's so much anger about Sacramento and the state Legislature," he says, "and people are going to vote for it. It's something that has a lot of appeal for the average voter. They'll say, 'Hey, open is good, more choices are good.'"
Under the "top two" rule, though, voting districts with little political diversity — such as heavily Democratic Los Angeles, where no Republicans, Greens or Libertarians get much support — are likely to choose two Democrats to face each other in the general election. In San Diego, the top-two rule could create the opposite situation: Two Republicans would face each other in November.
Nobody knows what these same-party opponents will do to distinguish themselves in the general election. And that kind of change strikes fear into the two big parties.
Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group that regularly deals with the state Legislature, thinks fear is a good thing. "I believe in the power of fear to get progressive change," says Court. "Right now, there are too many safe seats occupied by unresponsive politicians."
Court, whose outfit has no position on Prop. 14, says, "The more politicians worry at every stage of the election process, the more good it will be for the public."
The politicians must be worried. Already, political analysts are suggesting that the Democratic and Republican parties will scheme to declaw the law if it passes — possibly by hand-selecting several candidates for each primary race, and persuading some of them to campaign as if they are independent-minded moderates.
At the end of the day, though, Court reasons, "Any time both parties come out against something, it's probably a good thing to vote for."