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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
State Delegate Due Diligence, Part One

Tonight, my notes on the delegate experience so far. Tomorrow, lots of little thoughts about the various candidates.

People have expressed interest in hearing more about the delegate experience, not to mention my impressions of the candidates, so here goes. If you care only about the impressions, not the experience, you'll be more interested in tomorrow's post than this one.

Life as a State Delegate

The Utah State Republican Party Nominating Convention is Saturday, May 8, so, as a state delegate elected by my precinct, I've been paying even more attention to several races than I was before. I'm getting more e-mail than "snail mail" (the old-fashioned kind that comes in the mailbox) from candidates and other interested parties. Still, my collection of snail mail about the House, Senate, and Governor races is now about an inch thick, including a DVD someone produced about all the candidates, which I haven't even opened yet. Truth be told, they sent me two copies of the DVD, and one found its way immediately into the round file, not the "State Convention" file.

I've also been getting lots of phone calls, most of which are recordings. Most of those I simply ignore. To most of the rest I listen briefly before promptly forgetting them.

To date, I have spoken with all of the major House and Senate candidates except Senator Bob Bennett, and I'm working on him. (So far, I've only talked to his staff.) I've listened to them all in person and on the Web, have read their stuff, and have listened to and read what others are saying about them. I've exchanged questions and views with some of them via e-mail -- and with fellow delegates and people in my precinct.

I've been invited to numerous meetings with one candidate or another. Many of these are at a restaurant, at mealtime. The idea is that the candidate buys my breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which doesn't buy my vote, in case you're wondering. It does seem like a fair price for my time and attention, however. I haven't actually attended any of the restaurant meetings, though I would have if I could have. I like food about as much as I like politics -- rather too much.

That notwithstanding, hardly a day has passed in recent weeks, especially since the Utah County Republican convention, that hasn't found me spending at least a little time getting to know the candidates and their positions on the issues. In general, I'm also finding that my fellow delegates are thoughtful and diligent. I'll probably have more to say after the convention about where their thought and diligence has led them.

. . . On which subject, more or less, at tonight's debate in Provo, all the candidates were asked if they like Utah's unique nominating system, which uses caucuses, delegates, and conventions, and only resorts to a primary if the convention fails to produce a clear winner. All the challengers were for it. Senator Bennett said, "Ask me Saturday evening." I feel the same, to a degree. I am waiting to respond to some recent griping about the system in the Deseret News and elsewhere until I have a little more data -- after Saturday's convention, that is.

How I Became a Delegate

Back in March, I obtained from the Utah County elections office an electronic list of registered voters in my precinct. I used that list to send a two-page letter to several dozen of the registered Republicans I know on the list. I told them I wanted to be a state delegate and asked them to attend the caucus and vote for me to be a state delegate. I explained at some length that I wanted to help choose our leaders at what I view as a criticial time, both constitutionally and fiscally. I told them what I'm looking for in a candidate, and I told them how I evaluated the major Senate candidates at that point. I threw in an FAQ page about how the caucuses work, another about myself, and a third about some specific concerns I have about Senator Bennett. That's a lot of paper, and I know that it violated the much ballyhooed put-it-on-a-single-page principle. But it seemed like the thing to do. A number of people thanked me for the detailed discussion and information; I assume that there were more who objected to my verbosity than just the one who mentioned it. I had also planned and finally did prepare a shorter version of the same material, which fit on one page with plenty of white space, as a handout for the precinct caucus.

In truth, my little campaign for state delegate was probably overkill. I haven't seen anyone go to such lengths before. But I got what I wanted, and then some.

Attendance at the precinct caucus was higher than I've seen it before. There were almost 50 people there, including some rookies. Most of those present were people to whom I had sent my letter, and most of the people to whom I wrote were present, but I know at least some of them would have attended anyway. When no one indicated interest in being precinct chair right away, my partisans got clever and nominated me, since the chair is a state delegate, too. Then another candidate presented herself. We gave our speeches -- in my case a reduced version of what I had already written -- and had a vote, in which I was elected. I don't assume that everyone in attendance to whom I had written actually voted for me, especially since one of them was the other candidate, but enough of them voted for me. I won. After the caucus, and a couple of weeks later than I intended, I sent a much shorter letter to the people to whom I had written before -- the ones who had also attended the caucus -- thanking them.

Yesterday, for Example

Tonight I attended what was billed as the last debate of the Senate candidates, in Provo at the Wells Fargo building downtown. All eight candidates were present, and the room was packed, mostly with state delegates. There was an hour before the formal debate for mingling with the candidates. I did a little of that -- having already done some at the county convention and elsewhere. Then I found a seat, pulled out my iPod and headphones, and spent the rest of the hour listening to a KSL podcast I had started earlier in the day.

You see, today Doug Wright devoted two of his three KSL morning show hours to questions and answers with the four major Senate candidates, Senator Bennett, Mike Lee, Tim Bridgewater, and Cherilyn Eagar, all of whom were in the studio. It was a useful discussion, and it's all available as podcasts, one per hour. (Go to KSL.com and look for podcasts of the Doug Wright Show. This will lead you to instructions for downloading the podcasts. Or just save yourself the time and go to the iTunes Store. The podcasts are free. You want the second and third hours.)

My total investment in my delegate "due diligence" today, including travel time but excluding blogging, was 5.5 hours, a lot more than on most recent days.

In tomorrow's post I will throw out some random thoughts, notes, and impressions about the various candidates -- mostly the Senate candidates -- based on the county convention, tonight's debate, my mailboxes (physical and virtual), and other aspects of the campaign. I will not be attempting to analyze each candidate systematically.

By the way, it has to be a matter of mere hours before someone posts tonight's debate on YouTube, and we were told tonight that Fox News will be doing a segment on it Friday afternoon or evening.

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