Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Will Utah parties change how they pick candidates?

Published: Sunday, April 21 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Utah Republican Central Committee rejected a proposal to increase the convention delegate vote threshold to win the party's nomination. Is this the end of reform for Utah's nomination process, or the beginning of a ballot proposal petition to achieve fundamental changes?

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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It seems the world spins out of control, with cataclysmic events occurring far beyond our feeble minds to comprehend. We'll stick with what we understand: old-fashioned politics.

The Utah Republican Central Committee rejected a proposal to increase the convention delegate vote threshold to win the party's nomination. Is this the end of reform for Utah's nomination process, or the beginning of a ballot proposal petition to achieve fundamental changes?

Pignanelli: "Those who have been once intoxicated with power … never can willingly abandon it." — Edmund Burke

Shocked! I am shocked … absolutely shocked that members of this GOP governing body, after receiving guidance from prominent political intelligentsia, did not collectively state: "You are absolutely right. We should give up our power and influence to determine nominees of the party. We are ashamed of our actions and please send our apologies to Bob Bennett."

For years, political leaders have reminded delegates frequently that they are too powerful and control the destiny of our politicians. If you say something repeatedly to someone — especially if it's true — they will revere and hold it dear. So why would delegates voluntarily undertake any action to reduce their authority? Even the suggested compromise of raising the threshold from 60 percent to 70 percent in conventions causes some diminishment of their influence and was rejected by the committee.

Real change to the nomination system will only occur through the Legislature (unlikely to happen for years) or through a ballot initiative. While a majority of Utahns want a change to the delegate/convention system, none of them will spend a Saturday in the front of the grocery store gathering signatures for a petition. Thus, initiative sponsors will spend an almost half million dollars for paid signature gatherers. National tea party organizations (who love the delegate process) have promised to weigh in against any reform activity, and an additional half million will need to be secured for advertising in response. Initiative supporters need to find one or several sugar daddies.

Webb: As is widely known, I'm associated with the group suggesting reforms to the nomination system. Our objective is to increase citizen participation in Utah's political processes. I've long been a supporter of the caucus/convention system, and continue to be so. But along with many Utah leaders and a clear majority of Republican voters, I believe it's time to make reforms so that more citizens have a say in determining party nominees.

The Republican Party, to its credit, has actually made good progress. The Central Committee voted to open caucus meetings so that citizens can participate without having to attend at a specific time at a specific place. That will encourage candidates to reach out to a broader spectrum of voters in the pre-caucus election phase, instead of just communicating with party activists and past delegates.

The group promoting reform has worked closely with party leaders and will continue to do so. I'd like to see delegates at the state convention next month ratify the Central Committee's action, broadening caucus participation and also raising the convention vote threshold. I believe those changes would be significant enough that a citizen ballot proposal effort would be unnecessary.

National GOP operatives continue to perform a self-autopsy to confront changing demographics and national-level election losses. Is this evidence that the tea party right wing — especially in Utah — is in decline?

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