One Democratic Utah House candidate is withdrawing and another is complaining over two separate incidents in Democratic Party caucuses Monday evening.
Paula Wright, who was challenging Rep. Erbey Satterfield, D-Ogden, said Thursday she is withdrawing from the race, partly because of controversy over delegate selection arising out of a caucus she supervised.Rep. Ted Lewis, D-Salt Lake, expects the delegate selection at a caucus in his home Monday will go to the Salt Lake County Democratic Credentials Committee.
In both instances, Wright and Lewis wouldn't have been delegates to their county conventions without supporters voting for them after early votes had been counted and announced.
Wright said she is submitting the first vote-count to her county party. "I definitely won't be a delegate. I've decided not to even run for the House. We Democrats have a hard enough time winning an election, and I don't want to jeopardize our chances of holding this seat."
Lewis expects his incident to be appealed to his county credentials committee. On the advice of Utah Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi, Lewis isn't resigning as a delegate but will let the committee decide who should be seated as delegates from his district. As of now, he is a delegate.
Lewis held a combined voting district caucus in his home. After voting had taken place on the delegates, the winners were inappropriately announced. Lewis was a candidate for delegate but didn't finish in the top three and so wasn't picked. His wife, however, was picked. Also one of those first three was a relative of Douglas Jensen, who is challenging Lewis for the District 22 Democratic nomination.
Lewis realized that the voting should go on for an hour. He asked those present what should be done. "We, together, decided that the polls should remain open." Lewis said he doesn't always run as a delegate. But when he does, he always calls neighbors and asks them to come to the caucus and vote for him. He did that before the Monday evening caucus. But he adds that he did call some of his neighbors to come and vote after the first vote had been announced.
Several came over to his house and voted. At the end of the hour the polls were closed, the additional votes were counted and Lewis was now a delegate. The relative of Jensen didn't make the three after the final vote and complained to Lewis about it. Lewis expects either Jensen or his relative to appeal to the credentials committee.
Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, is the Salt Lake County Democratic Party's treasurer and, as an attorney, the county party's legal adviser. "I wrote the instructions for the caucuses, following state law, and it clearly, very clearly, says that the polls must remain open for an hour. But it also says that you don't count the ballots and announce the results before that hour is up. We have a problem here," he said referring to Lewis' case.
Delegate votes are important. If a candidate gets 70 percent of the delegate support in his district in the county or state party convention, he is automatically his party's nominee. If no one gets 70 percent, then the two top delegate vote-getters face each other in a party primary election.
Besides Lewis and Jensen, Lief A. Syversen is also running as a Democrat in District 22. So it is a three-way race, and at least one of them will be eliminated in the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention held May 21.