Members of the Arizona State Legislature can do their part to vanquish big money in politics and create a level playing field for all who want a say in government.
As a bonus, they will ultimately elect more women to Congress.
All they need to do is go along with a proposal former Democratic President Barack Obama endorsed before he left office.
That idea — impose term limits on members of Congress through an Article V convention.
But the time for Arizona legislators to vote in favor of a resolution to that effect is running out.
Right now the state Senate has a bill that would allow Arizona to have a say in this matter, SCR1014 awaits a vote.
The outcome is uncertain.
According to a 2015 New York Times/CBS poll, 84 percent of Americans believe money has too much influence in political campaigns. Fundraising is most unequal when an incumbent defends his seat. Any reform that fights incumbency can make the money situation more equal.
Term limits is that reform.
Like any smart investor, special interests spend on candidates who provide them with the best possible return. That’s why sitting congressmen receive $6 for every dollar that goes to their challengers. The advantage makes them powerful and virtually impossible to beat. This discourages good people from running for office.
An incumbent’s fundraising edge is a protective shield come election time against their own bad votes, any talented challengers who want their seat and potential lost support from within their own party. This, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The odds of defeating a U.S. House incumbent based on a challenger’s spending are even if the challenger has $2 million or more. They’re 18 to 4 if the challenger has only between $1 million to $1.4 million. But if the challenger has less than $1 million then his or her odds of winning are 293 to 2.
The average House incumbent raises around $1.5 million for his or her re-election campaign. The average challenger raises around $250,000.
But what happens in an open seat race?
The average candidate raises a happy medium, around $600,000.
Open seat contests bring more candidates, more accessibility to elected office, and more equal fundraising.
Term limits remedy the problems of incumbency and the money that goes along with it. By guaranteeing open seat races on a regular basis, term limits deliver a more balanced and accessible system. They prevent incumbents from growing too unbeatable, and they keep Congress from transforming into an aristocracy.
But term limits offer additional perks.
According to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts professor Samantha Pettey, if women run for office then they are just as likely to win an election as men. And yet, only 25 percent of state legislators are women.
Pettey reports that while more women are running for office at the state level, states with term limits see an even greater increase in the number of female candidates.
Pettey’s research shows Democratic, rather than Republican women, are more likely to hold office.
According to termlimits.com, Obama has praised term limits.
“I think term limits are a really useful thing,” Obama said.
Again, Arizona has the power to enact real change.
Call your legislator today and insist they vote in favor of an Article V term limits resolution.
Suzette Meyers is the Arizona State Director for U.S. Term Limits.