A number of people aren't happy with not being invited to the Utah Education Association party.
While members of the huge teacher union were meeting in the Salt Palace on Thursday, the Republican Party was holding a press conference to complain about what they called unfair political tactics and Democratic senatorial candidate Brian Moss was complaining to the rival teachers union.Specifically, GOP State Chairman Craig Moody said it was undemocratic for "union's bosses" to ban Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter from addressing the convention. Moody also thinks it unfair that the UEA won't give Bangerter a mailing list of union members - a list Moody claims is available to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson.
The UEA has endorsed Wilson and given the Wilson campaign more than $25,000. Moody doesn't complain about that. But he said not allowing Bangerter to address the 15,000 members at the convention - when Wilson will talk twice to the group - and not handing over the membership lists is "heavy-handed and anti-democratic actions in an all out effort to elect their union-label candidate, Ted Wilson."
UEA president Jim Campbell, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention this year, said, "We did follow a democratic process in choosing who we endorsed. It was a rigorous process. We chose to invite only the endorsed candidate. The governor has had ample opportunities to talk to this group and to teachers throughout his administration."
Campbell said Bangerter has known for more than a month that he wasn't invited to the convention, yet the Republicans waited until now to complain. "Last year the governor chose not to come and he was invited. This year we chose not to invite him," Campbell said.
Moody added that while he doesn't think Republicans in the Legislature will take out their frustration against the UEA on teachers or harm educational funding, "as a party we will act accordingly" if the rift between Republicans and the UEA leadership continues to widen.
"Nationally, the National Education Association is seen (by Republicans) as an arm of the Democratic Party. The UEA hasn't been so perceived in Utah. We're worried it could be," Moody said.
Democratic State Chairman Randy Horiuchi, who is also a consultant on the Wilson campaign, said Moody's statements are irresponsible.
"First of all, neither the Democratic Party nor the Wilson campaign have ever had access to the UEA lists. So why should the Republicans?"
Horiuchi did admit that the UEA will "pass along" the campaign material of candidates they endorse. "But the UEA has endorsed Republican candidates in the past, as well as Democrats."
"Moody should do his homework. Jim Campbell was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, so he's a Republican. Most of the UEA political staff are well-known Republicans. The UEA membership is more Republican than Democratic. We have always considered the UEA a bipartisan group which endorses the most pro-education candidates," Horiuchi said.
Moss and Attorney General David Wilkinson, also up for election, complained Thursday that they weren't invited to speak at the UEA Convention.
Those candidates, instead, spoke to the American Federation of Teachers, the new teachers' union that was also meeting Thursday.