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American West Briefing Tour: A tale of two Arizona initiative campaigns

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September 26, 2011

American West.jpg

By Al Ortiz

Ballopedia Travel Journal

PORTLAND, Oregon: The tour group has now landed in the eccentric city of Portland, Oregon, but before we shift focus to the Beaver State, loose ends need to be tied up from our time in Phoenix.

What better way to wrap up the part two of the tour than to visit with two of the top leaders in the initiative process.

Beginning our day in the American Southwest

We met with Eric Ehst on September 24, after our visit with a leader in health care reform, who helped organize 1998's Proposition 200. Ehst is the executive director of the Clean Elections Institute, a group dedicated to "promoting and defending public campaign financing, independent redistricting, and citizens' initiative and referendum rights since 1998."

Ehst's Prop 200 established the Clean Election's Act, which in part provides for the following: Funds participating state office candidates dollar for dollar against non-participants, up to a limit of $2 million. According to the current Clean Elections Act, public funds are provided to Candidate A if his or her opponent, Candidate B, is running on private funds and outspends them. If Candidate B spends more money than the public funds given to Candidate A, that would trigger additional public funding to Candidate A.

The initiative has come under fire, though, Ehst says, with a recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down the matching funds provision of the law. Also, a measure has been placed on the Arizona 2012 ballot that would not completely repeal the law, but would water it down.

After speaking with Ehst, we then made our way to a lunch meet-up with Joe Yuhas, partner and Executive Director Public Affairs at the Riester Consulting Company, an organization who specializes in assisting initiative campaigns with signature collection, media advertising, initiative message development, research and other aspects of the initiative process crucial to voter approval, or disapproval.

Yuhas, along with his established business partner, claimed at the lunch that Riester has a 95% winning rate with the initiative campaigns it runs. But when they lose, "It's very, very hard to take."

The most recent campaign they oversaw was Proposition 203 in 2010, the measure that allowed residents in the state with specific medical conditions to be treated with certain amounts of marijuana for personal use.

The measure was approved with 50.1 percent of the vote. Let that squeaker sink in to your mind.

Other campaigns the Riester company organized, according to a document given at the lunch with our tour group:

Joe Yuhas discussing initiative matters with tour guests

More on our penultimate day in Phoenix is to come later on, as you know if you have been closely following our travels, we have a hectic schedule throughout our days. Along with closing the books on our Phoenix visit, we will open up a new chapter with the great city of Portland, Oregon. If there is any state in the country that might have a slight advantage over Arizona as far as initiative news goes, it would be this state.


  • Current City: Portland

What else to look for today


Learn more about the tour and its participants here.

Follow the tour!

See also