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Saturday, April 29, 2006
Notes from the Utah County Republican Convention

Results of the convention and miscellaneous notes. Even bagpipes are mentioned favorably.

I took a few pages of notes on the Utah County Republican Party Nominating Convention today. Then I changed my mind. I'm not going to try to give a blow-by-blow account. Frankly, most of the blows weren't that interesting. Besides, they say that brevity is the soul of wit, so I'll try to be relatively witty instead of comprehensive. Here, after a procedural note, are my notes on results and miscellany.

At the convention, if there are more than two candidates for an office, there will be one or more ballots to reduce the field to two. If a candidate gets 60 percent or more of the votes in one of these ballots, the process is over, that candidate is selected, no more ballots are taken, and a primary is avoided. Otherwise, the last ballot is with the two top vote-getters from the previous ballot.

If there are two candidates for the Republican nomination for a particular office, or when the field is reduced to two by one or more previous ballots, there is a final vote. If the winner gets 60 percent or more of the vote, he or she will be the Republican candidate on the general election ballot in November. Otherwise, the two will have a primary race.

Here is the interesting news from the votes in which I didn't participate (because I'm not in the relevant districts):

  • State Representative David Cox (House District 56) was defeated without a primary election by challenger Kenneth Sumsion. I initially assumed that this was because Cox antagonized the UEA/PTA educational establishment in a variety of ways, such as by sponsoring the bill to allow municipalities to remove themselves from large school districts. But sources in the legislative district kindly corrected my misjudgment and advised me that Sumsion ran a strong school-choice campaign, and Cox ended up looking like a friend of the public schools by comparison. His legislative activities probably insured that his support on that side of the fence was soft . . . and that race is over almost before it began.
  • Incumbent Parley Hellewell went down in Senate District 15 to Margaret Dayton; again, there will be no primary. Hellewell was probably hurt first by his initial announcement that he would not run, and then by a vicious, anonymous, public personal attack on Dayton -- which probably did not come from Hellewell, but led to some serious backlash against him. Dayton herself has a significant following as a state legislator, so her victory is not a big surprise.

Here are some miscellaneous notes:

  • Payson High School was the site of the convention. I left the school's address home, but no matter. The only people voting in Payson today were the delegates, so I correctly guessed that a trail of campaign signs would lead me straight to the school.
  • The school's auditorium is large and very nice. The Payson High School Pipe Band (as in bagpipes and drums) was a huge hit when it played as part of the presentation of the colors.
  • A soprano whose name I missed, and who wasn't in the program, sang the national anthem. In light of a couple of national news items I heard this week, it's probably relevant to note that she both sang it in English and knew the words.
  • A veteran of Salt Lake County Republican conventions, who now lives in Utah County, told me that the Utah County version is a lot tamer. I thought it was pretty businesslike, with a minimum of baloney.

Here are results of votes for county offices, mixed with my own desires. (Compare this to my notes earlier in the campaign.)

  • County Commission Seat A: I said a few weeks ago that I found incumbent Jerry Grover arrogant, and that challenger (and former officeholder) Gary Anderson seemed more like a leader than challenger Howard Stone, who didn't run much of a campaign. I became less enamored of Anderson as the campaign proceeded. So my hope was that there would be a primary election -- because if the incumbent is going to win, I want him to have to earn it. I voted for Anderson in both of two ballots, in the hope of achieving that result. There will, in fact, be a primary; neither Grover nor Anderson got 60 percent of the vote. Anderson actually got more than Grover in both ballots, which should help motivate Grover for the primary campaign.
  • County Commission Seat B: Incumbent Steve White won more than 60 percent on the first ballot. He struck me as arrogant, too, and I wanted him to earn his seat, if he reoccupied it at all, by running in a primary. I voted for Bill Ellis in the hope that Ellis would actually win in the end, not just to force a primary. He finished in the high 30s, not quite high enough.
  • County Attorney: Multiterm incumbent Kay Bryson got 12 percent (!) of the vote on the first and only ballot. My favorite, challenger Curtis Larson, got only 19 percent. That left almost 70 percent for challenger Jeff Buhman, who ran a much more aggressive campaign. So he'll be on the ballot in November, and there won't be a primary. In my mind, this is a partial success, because at least the incumbent is gone.
  • County Clerk/Auditor: My favorite, Bryan Thompson, is the nominee, avoiding a primary against Cary McConnell, who already works in the office.
  • County Treasurer: My favorite, Robert Kirk, a Utah State Deputy Treasurer, won more than 60 percent on the first ballot, defeating current County Clerk/Auditor Kim Jackson without primary.

More miscellany:

  • 96 percent of about 1200 county delegates attended. Apparently, this is an unusually high turnout. Reportedly, about half were first-time delegates, such as I.
  • Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert, US Senator Orrin Hatch, and Congressman Cannon spoke briefly, as did some of Hatch's and Cannon's challengers, since the two are up for re-election. One of Cannon's opponents is the volatile Merrill Cook, who just won't go away. These races cross county boundaries, so they will be handled at the state convention.
  • Four candidates for the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson (Utah's 2nd District) spoke briefly. This race crosses county boundaries, too. The three are Joe Tucker, Kris Lonsberry, and LaVar Christensen. None of them did badly in his three minutes at the microphone, but none of them stood out as a particularly strong challenger for Matheson -- at least not yet.
  • No one in my precinct expressed any views as to how I should vote on any race.
  • I tried to do my homework as a delegate, but I can't say I read everything thecandidates mailed, e-mailed, or left at my door. Besides attending a meet-the-candidates event, I talked to some officials who have worked with some of the candidates, to get their impressions, and I talked or exchanged e-mails with several candidates directly. I also compared notes with some other delegates.
  • I'm almost never caught without a pen or two or three on my person. Ahem. My thanks to the delegate to my left, who loaned me his pen when mine went AWOL, just in time for the first ballot. Thanks to the delegate on my right, who gave me her spare when the other guy's pen stopped working, too.
  • Apparently, if Orrin Hatch wins in November and the Republicans retain control of the US Senate, Hatch will chair the Senate Finance Committee and our Senator Robert Bennett will chair the Banking Committee. That's quite a bit of power in the hands of the Utah delegation.

Finally, I don't think a lot of folks appreciate the power that the county Republican convention wields. Given the tendency for Republicans to win almost everything in the county by a large margin, it's pretty safe to say that 1100 of us essentially elected several candidates to county office today -- and November is more than six months away. If you want to change things in government, you don't start on Election Day. You start by influencing who runs and who is nominated.

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