Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Reflection and analysis of Utah's state conventions

Published: Sunday, April 29 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pignanelli: The results this year especially highlighted the unique dynamics of the convention process. These activities are built for candidates with a stage presence and personal energy. The pre-convention polls clearly documented that there would be a Republican primary for the 4th district and a Democrat primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. Yet, the most charismatic individual in these races swept the delegates off their feet — guaranteeing the nominations for Mia Love and Scott Howell, respectively. Some argue this feature is a disadvantage for the hard-working but "personality challenged" candidate who underwent the hard work prior to the convention. Reality demands the candidate with the most public appeal, regardless of effort, should emerge from the convention.

Further, conventions do not have the luxury of time to resolve intra-party squabbles that erupt at the last minute. GOP activists are still scratching their heads over the 2nd Congressional District contest last Saturday. The heated accusations made by a minor candidate against another pushed the emotional buttons and shifted the momentum in a short amount of time. Primaries offer better deliberation of such matters.

Climate change is giving us wonderful, warm Saturdays in April; why should they be wasted on political conventions?

Were the conventions beneficial or detrimental to party leaders?

Pignanelli: The biggest winners of the conventions were party chairmen Thomas Wright and Dabakis. Against dire predictions of a tough year, Dabakis fostered a great team of candidates and excitement among the faithful. We are still hearing kudos for Wright's tremendous management of the controversies while utilizing a new electronic balloting system. Even I was able to observe Wright's solid convention acumen on my laptop through live streaming (very cool).

Webb: Staging a convention requires the logistical proficiency of mounting a small war. It's an incredibly tough job to manage 4,000 independently elected delegates, some of them intent on making mischief. Except for the 2nd District confusion, both conventions went smoothly and party leaders and volunteers deserve praise.

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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