Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Who owns the soul of the Utah Republican Party?

Published: Sunday, April 24 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Mainstream Republicans can no longer just grumble with each other at luncheons. Business, ecumenical and community leaders, who identify themselves as Republicans, most openly and aggressively support the pragmatic conservatives who delivered a worthy immigration answer.

Without this confrontation, the far right will solidify their control — for decades.

What are the prospects for changing Utah's caucus/convention system so the candidate nominating process is more reflective of mainstream values?

Pignanelli: When a headline in this newspaper announces the end of Utah's delegate system, another headline will reveal the discovery of flying pigs.

There are three options for change, each more difficult than the one before.

First, party delegates could modify at any time. But this would require thousands of delegate contenders (Democrat and Republican) stating the following at the precinct caucuses: "Almost everyone here is a wingnut with a narrow agenda. If elected delegate, I will support actions to eliminate our power at the convention." (Good luck with that.)

Second, legislative leaders could mandate a primary, but only with commitments from two thirds of each body to prevent a referendum. This is impossible because many lawmakers view the delegate system as an efficient means of avoiding a primary (they know how to contain the crazy delegates in their district).

Third, a referendum process is possible, but it is expensive and unlikely to be funded. Winged bacon will not be on a menu soon.

Webb: Clearly, raw political power in Utah is manifest most fundamentally at precinct caucuses and conventions. Control caucuses and conventions, and you control politics in Utah.

Thus, the task is pretty simple. Mainstream Republicans need to turn out in large numbers at precinct caucuses at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 27, 2012, and mainstream Republicans will be back in charge. Put it on your calendar.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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