Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Count My Vote: Exploring the impact of compromise legislation

Published: Sunday, March 9 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Long term, this bargain will fundamentally influence Utah elections and political parties. Candidates will be forced to secure support beyond just the special-interest groups that dominate the conventions. The most important feature is allowing independent Utahns to vote in the primaries. Mainstream politicians can redirect their fawning from narrow special-interest groups to a broader audience.

Webb: We won’t see immediate, dramatic change in most races. Popular incumbents will still win. Republicans will still win in most districts. All candidates will still need to appeal to their party base, because the base is more activist, more willing to volunteer and votes in higher percentages.

But in certain races the dual-track system may have a tempering impact on candidates, resulting in more mainstream positions. Candidates using the caucus/convention process can’t just woo the far right or far left and ignore mainstream voters because he or she may face a more mainstream candidate who gets on the primary ballot by gathering signatures. Candidates will also need to appeal to centrist unaffiliated voters, who will be allowed to vote in primary elections.

And with delegates no longer guarding the only route to the primary ballot, incumbent politicians will have to worry about all primary voters, not just their delegates. While the ultimate result may be more mainstream public policy, Utah will certainly remain a conservative state with conservative values. And those who are most active will still have the greatest influence.

It will be very interesting to see which method of getting on the primary ballot turns out to be the most popular. Many candidates may want to do both.

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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