For the first time in at least three tries, Arizona voters rejected a change to the electoral process billed as a reform.
Preliminary results showed Proposition 121 going down to defeat.
Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson blamed the loss on $600,000 of out-of-state funding that was funneled through Phoenix-based Americans for Responsible Leadership. The real source, though, was a Virginia-based group linked to conservative and Republican causes.
Johnson said he believed the measure would be swept along by the ever-increasing number of Arizonans who have chosen not to affiliate with either major party. He said they have been disenfranchised by the current political system.
That system allows each party to nominate its own candidates. The winners of each party's primary then face off in the general election.
Proposition 121 would have created a wide-open primary including all candidates from all parties, with the top two advancing to November.
Johnson, a former Democrat turned independent, said that would give more a voice to independents who currently outnumber Democrats.
But Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who led the opposition, said voters did not believe the change would make things better.
He noted that Arizonans have done everything from limiting campaign donations to creating an independent redistricting commission, all in the name of making the process better or more open.
"This time around, Arizona voters said we're not going to get fooled again,'' he said.
Johnson, however, said it was just an example of the well-funded special interests getting their way. He cited reports which linked the ultimate source of the cash to brothers Robert and David Koch who have bankrolled many conservative causes.
He said he met with many businesses in an effort to create a broad-based coalition. Johnson said that, coupled with support of others like firefighters and community groups, would carry the day.
"It never dawned on us to meet with the Koch brothers,'' he said.
A spokeswoman for the brothers said Tuesday neither they nor their corporation put any money into defeating Proposition 121.
Johnson said he's not convinced. And he said he expects them and their allies to play an increasing role in Arizona politics.
"What I think is clear to me is getting their permission (for electoral changes) is probably going to become more important,'' he said.
But some of Johnson's problems were closer to home.
None of the political parties were particularly pleased with the measure. But the Republicans, who have more registered voters than anyone else, mounted an active effort to defeat it.