One of the curiosities of Arizona politics is how widely supported efforts to make government cleaner — the approval of term limits in 1992 and so-called clean elections public financing of candidates in 1998 — coincided with the rise and now dominance of the extreme right.
Term limits were a fad in the early 1990s, ostensibly meant to eliminate a permanent political class. Although never implemented on a national level, they gained traction in many state and local government. "Clean elections" was intended to take big money out of politics, especially in the aftermath of the bribe-ridden AzScam scandal.
Under the new rules, a Burton Barr, who ruled the Legislature as House majority leader from 1966 to 1986 would have been impossible. Barr's time, working with such Democratic leaders as Alfredo Gutierrez and Art Hamilton, also was the high-water mark of legislative achievement for Arizona.
Had term limits been enacted nationally, we never would have had a Carl Hayden, who served in the Senate for 42 years, or a John J. Rhodes, who served in the House for 30 years. And thus, no Central Arizona Project, which demanded such longevity from lawmakers from what was then a small and politically weak state challenging mighty California.