Candidates go through delegates' stomachs to win hearts, minds

Published: Sunday, April 8 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Daryl Acumen, a Republican delegate from Cedar Hills, figures he will spend as much as 10 hours a week studying candidates. He posts his notes from meetings with candidates at gopcenter.com.

A 41-year-old Hewlett-Packard digital strategy manager, Acumen grew up in Maryland, attended the University of Southern California and settled in Utah about 10 years ago.

He's leaning toward Hatch in the Senate race, but said he really likes former GOP state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, too. What he doesn't like are outside groups — the anti-Hatch FreedomWorks and the anti-Liljenquist Freedom Path — working against the candidates. Most of their literature goes into his trash can.

"I despise FreedomWorks," he said. "I want them to get the hell out of the state."

Of Freedom Path, Acumen said, "I get a lot of crap from them, too. I don't like it."

Nor does he care for the "push poll" calls he gets from campaigns trying to discredit their opponents. Negative campaigning, he said, doesn't play well in Utah.

On a recent Wednesday, Quynn Udell had 35 voice mails on his cellphone — all from candidates. Most evenings his phone rings a dozen times. And he gets "robo calls" from one particular candidate at least three times a day.

"I get bombarded," he said.

But the first-time Republican delegate from Copperton knows it comes with the territory. On the flip side, he has cellphone numbers for candidates who don't mind direct calls or texts.

"I never fathomed being able to get to know the candidates as well as I have," said Udell, who changed his party affiliation from Libertarian to Republican before his neighborhood caucus meeting. "When you're a delegate, they're very willing to listen to you."

South Jordan resident Terrie Sherwood, 63, never fathomed she'd be a delegate. Though her husband was politically minded, she was not. But after he died, she thought she should take an interest in politics.

Sherwood attended a Democratic neighborhood caucus because that's what her husband did. And being among only three attendees, she was promptly elected a delegate.

So far, Sherwood has heard most from state Sens. Ross Romero and Ben McAdams, both D-Salt Lake, in the hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination for Salt Lake County mayor. Seeing them side by side at a candidates' meeting helped her decide whom to support, though she's not ready to reveal that publicly.

Democrats, who usually don't have many contested races, seem more geared toward winning over delegates at county and state conventions as opposed to restaurants and diners.

Before 7 a.m. on a recent Friday, about 10 GOP delegates stood outside Mimi's Cafe in Orem waiting for the doors to open. Talk outside the restaurant was confined mostly to greetings and introductions. But once the doors opened, another dozen delegates emerged from their cars and Liljenquist arrived, it was nothing but politics for the next 2½ hours.

Eventually, 28 delegates — all men but three — took seats at a long table or in the surrounding booths.

Servers distributed menus and set plates of fresh fruit and quartered muffins on the table as Liljenquist talked. Soon, delegates were cutting into French toast and quiche, munching bacon, stabbing at breakfast potatoes and sipping orange juice.

Liljenquist didn't intend to pick up the tab for all these people, but ultimately paid the $171 bill.

Email: romboy@desnews.com; lisa@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy; dnewspolitics

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