Joe Gruters, Terrie Rizzo argue ‘top two’ primary system won’t ease hyperpartisanship

Partisan politics of the democrats and republicans are creating a lack of bipartisan consensus. In American politics US parties are represented by either the democrat donkey or republican elephant
Proponents argued the parties have been rewarded by hyper-partisanship.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo and Florida Republican Party Chair Joe Gruters joined forces Friday to oppose a constitutional amendment that would create an open primary system in Florida.

The rare show of bipartisanship came during the Florida Tiger Bay Club 2020 Election Series, where the pair disputed claims that Amendment 3 would ease partisan tensions.

While both leaders acknowledged the era’s hyperpartisan nature, neither viewed Amendment 3 as a remedy.

“I think going forward we will see an opportunity and have more candidates who reach across the aisle and work together because we have to do this in order to heal our country,” Rizzo said during the forum. “This amendment, however, is not the one to do that.”

If passed in November, Amendment 3 would allow registered voters beginning in 2024 to cast a ballot in primary elections for the Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet regardless of party affiliation.

It would also create a single primary race for each office. Candidates from all parties would appear on the same ballot for an office and only the top two candidates would advance to the General Election.

Rizzo claimed the amendment would likely generate more “dark money” in races and reduce viability among third party candidates.

Gruters, who doubles as a state Senator representing Sarasota, agreed. He blamed the partisanship, in part, on the news media.

“I blame a lot of the media who gives the attention to the bomb throwers on each side,” Gruters said. “If you’re in D.C. and you want to be on TV on one of these news channels, you have to go and attack and go for the kill and strike your opponents.”

Gruters, notably, drew a distinction between Tallahassee and Washington.

“We have full grown respect for each other,” he said of Florida’s capital. “We have respect for the process. We’ve worked together on numerous bills up there.”

Meanwhile, the amendment’s proponents, including former Congressman Jason Altmire, see the top two primary system as a remedy.

Altmire is the author of Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It.

“This amendment will result in less polarization,” he said. “It will force political candidates to appeal not just to their narrow base or the extreme but to all voters. If you want to win the election, you’re going to have to change your message and legislate in a different way that’s going to appeal to a wider swath of voters.”

All Voters Vote Chairman Glenn Burhans echoed Altmire’s remarks.

“The hyperpartisanship is being caused by the parties,” Burhans said. “That’s the very nature of partisanship. In a closed primary system, candidates are rewarded by appealing to their bases, by staying in their silos, by going on Fox News or MSNBC and lobbing bombs at their opponents. They’re being rewarded for bad behavior in a closed primary process, so if you want to get rid of that, let’s let all voters vote.”

A survey released by the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Laboratory last week showed warning signs among likely voters for the “All Voters Vote” initiative.

The survey suggested  if the amendment were to fail this year, it will likely be because of a lack of support from Republican voters.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


  • Ron Ogden

    October 9, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    The nature of party politics is the business of the parties. There are NINE political parties in Florida. The only reason the Republican and Democratic parties dominate is because their platforms and personalities appeal to the most people. The primary-election system is the business or the parties. If you don’t want to be a Democrat or a Republican but you want to take part in a primary, organize your own party. It has been done before, right here in Pinellas.

  • Palmer Tom

    October 9, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    They’re right Why should outsiders determine party nominees?

  • Pedro

    October 10, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    I am for this amendment. I think it will help fight extremism on both sides. Plus, all the voters who are registered No Party Affiliation will be allowed to vote in primaries that they cannot vote in now.

  • Dan Lanske

    October 12, 2020 at 7:26 am

    This will not help partisanship.

    There are several examples aross the country where this type of primary system actually creates more partisanship (ie: california).

    This reason for this is that there are many many “purists” that register NPA instead of their respective party – people that believe the R’s are not conservative enough, and those that believe the D’s are not liberal enough. Therefore they register NPA. But, if given the chance with an amendment like this, they will vote in the primary, and therefore pull their party to the left/right.

    This amendment will make each party even more radical.

  • Wendy

    October 12, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Let the NPA people register with a major party if they want to vote in primaries. I fear that if this passes, our only choices will be super RWNJ and beyond extreme RWNJ.

Comments are closed.


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