October 10th, 2013 11:00 am | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Politics, Legislature

Mark Frohnmayer Proposes Open Primary Initative

Oregon State Capitol.Oregon's Capitol Building

Mark Frohnmayer's eclectic background includes 11 years in the video games industry and the leading Eugene-based electric vehicle company, Arcimoto.

Now, Frohnmayer's trying his hand at politics. He's got a strong political pedigree. His father, Dave Frohnmayer, is a three-term Oregon attorney general and 1990 gubernatorial candidate and his uncle, John Frohnmayer, was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1989 to 1992.

The Frohnmayer brothers came out of Oregon's long and now eclipsed moderate Republican tradition: Dave lost the 1990 gubernatorial race in part because a hard-right candidate, Al Mobley, grabbed 13 percent of the vote, helping Democrat Barbara Roberts win. John Frohnmayer resigned from the NEA in 1992 under pressure from the religious right.

Now, Mark Frohnmayer, 39, who is not a registered member of any political party, is pushing an idea that appeal to some moderates in both major parties—more open political primaries. The conventional wisdom is that candidates must appeal to the most extreme elements in their parties, thus furthering polarization and partisanship.

Frohnmayer's taking a whack at changing the dynamics.

Here's the key language from the initiative language he filed with Secretary of State Kate Brown on Oct. 7:

"The intent of the Approval Voting Primary Act of 2014 is to create a fully open primary system in which individual Oregon electors may vote for as many of the nominated candidates as they choose without regard for party affiliation, or lack of party affiliation, of either the elector or candidate(s). The two candidates receiving the most votes will appear on the general election ballot. The Act is applicable to all voter choice offices."

The type of primary Frohnmayer proposes is called a "top-two" primary, and is different from open primaries, in which any voter can vote in one but only one primary. More on different approaches here.

Former Secretary of State Phil Keisling twice led efforts to open Oregon's primaries. The most recent effort came in 2008, when ardent defenders of the status quo crushed Ballot Measure 65 by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin.

Frohnmayer's initiative is statutory and would require him to gather 87,213 valid signatures.

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