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Saturday, April 24, 2010
Notes and Numbers from the Utah County Republican Convention

There were a couple of surprises today -- at least to me -- in one of the county commission races. Parking was a challenge. Lots of good conversations were had among the delegates. And generally speaking, civility ruled the day at the Utah County Republican Party Nominating Convention at Mountain View High School in Orem.

First the numbers, then the notes.


County Commission Seat A (four-year term): Incumbent Gary Anderson and challenger Joel Wright will face each other in a primary election. James Vein, who did not appear at the convention, was eliminated on the first ballot, and the results of a second ballot between Anderson and Wright were quite similar to the first ballot's results. Anderson had about 51 percent both times, and Wright had about 48 percent -- both well below the 60 percent threshold for avoiding a primary.

County Commission Seat B (four-year term -- in fact, all of today's candidates are seeking four-year terms): Challenger Doug Witney claimed almost 66 percent of the vote on the initial ballot and will be the Republican nominee; I was surprised that there wasn't at least a second ballot. Incumbent Steve White (31 percent) and challenger Leon Frazier (3 percent) were eliminated on the first ballot. Also eliminated then was challenger Linda Houskeeper, who used her three-minute convention speech to criticize White and to announce that she was voting for Witney. Thereafter she received one vote, apparently not her own.

Incumbents James Tracy (Sheriff), Kris Poulson (Assessor), and Gary Ratcliffe (Surveyor) won their respective nominations on the first ballot. Incumbent County Recorder Rod Campbell and challenger Jeff Smith will face each other in a primary, having finished, respectively, with 49 and 51 percent of the vote in their race.

Three incumbents ran unopposed for the Republican nomination: Bryan Thompson (Clerk/Auditor), Treasurer Robert Kirk, and County Attorney Jeff Buhman.


District 57: Incumbent Craig Frank won the nomination with 74 percent of the vote over John Stevens.

District 59: There will be a primary election between Mike Thompson and Val Peterson, who were separated in the vote by about four percent.

District 60: Incumbent Bradley Daw won the nomination with 65 percent of the vote over Calvin Harper.

District 65: Incumbent Francis Gibson won the nomination with 82 percent of the vote over Mark Jarman.

District 66: Incumbent Mike Morley won the nomination with 83 percent of the vote over challengers Scott Brighton and Glen Roberts.

Other districts' boundaries either cross county boundaries and are business for the state convention, or have candidates running unopposed for the Republican nomination. In fact, both are true of my own Representative John Dougall.


In a non-binding straw poll about the US Senate race, Mike Lee received more than 40 percent of the vote. Cherilyn Eager finished second with about 22 percent. Tim Bridgewater was third with 18 percent. Incumbent Senator Robert Bennett finished fourth with 15 percent, ahead of four other candidates.

There was no comparable straw poll about the US House of Representatives race (Second District) between Neil Walter and Morgan Philpot, both of whom showed up and spoke at the convention, and Ed Eliason, who did not appear.


Primary elections for partisan races (where the nomination is not won in convention) and for non-partisan races, such as local school board, are on June 22.

My compliments to my fellow delegates. 1364 of 1460 total delegates attended. There were very few boos of Senator Bennett. The longest standing ovation was for the mother of a local soldier who was recently killed in action. The delegates kindly allowed some delegates who needed to attend a funeral to vote early, and they allowed one delegate who arrived one minute after the credentials desk closed to receive her credentials and vote.

I heard a lot of conversations among delegates which sounded like serious, open-minded people discussing ideas and concerns with people who to some degree think differently. There might have been some closed-mindedness there, too, but I didn't hear it. I had a lot of interesting conversations, too, with people I had met before, and with people I hadn't. A lot of the delegates were first-timers, in case you're wondering.

It's not clear to me that Linda Houskeeper really wanted to be a county commissioner. Perhaps she just wanted to defeat Steve White. She did the latter. It seems likely that her endorsement of Doug Witney before the first ballot was essential to Witney's victory with 66 percent of the vote. I myself had a good conversation with him before the general session and was sufficiently impressed that I voted for him.

If I were a candidate, I think I would want to realize that delegates tire quickly of multiple endorsements prior to a candidate's own speech. Doug Witney, among a few others, used all his time to talk to the delegates himself. It may have made a difference.

Tim Bridgewater brought in the head of the Minuteman movement from California to endorse him. Judging by the straw poll, it didn't help much.

I don't think I'd want to wait for the speeches to decide for whom to vote. They're only three minutes long anyway, and they're just speeches.

Is it possible that the Surveyor candidate who gave away little kaleidoscopes was sending exactly the wrong message? A kaleidoscope distorts a view, after all. And maybe Governor Gary Herbert should reword his line about how he looks better when he stands next to his wife; some could take that exactly wrong.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir tenor soloist Shane Warby was superb, singing the national anthem -- and he got the words right.

The Central Committee beat up Party Chair Taylor Oldroyd pretty thoroughly in its meeting before the main convention over some parliamentary miscues, but they weren't gratuitously obstructive in the general session.

All eight candidates for Bob Bennett's US Senate seat spoke briefly; it was my first real exposure to candidates Leonard Fabiano, Jeremy Friedbaum, and David Chiu. All eight spoke well.

If memory serves, US Senate candidate Merrill Cook got less than ten votes.

I had never seen a "motion to saunter" before. Sauntering is like a small recess, only you're supposed to stay close by, while the body waits for something -- in this case, for ballots to be counted. It was delightful to have run out of speeches to fill the time, before we ran out of business.

We were all done, and the second ballot was counted, by about 3:00 p.m. Not bad.

The best food at a candidate's table was the fruit "kebab for Bob" at Senator Bennett's table.

The best joke of the session was by a minor gubernatorial candidate, Dan Oaks of Alpine. He said that in Alpine they always bury Democrats twelve feet deep when they die, instead of six, because deep down they're good people.

Speaking of which, the state conventions are two weeks away, on May 8. The two parties' conventions run simultaneously in different areas of the same venue, the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. That should be interesting.

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