About 1,200 loyal Salt Lake County Republican Party delegates will gather in the Salt Palace this morning to vote on - and eliminate many - candidates running for county offices and legislative House and Senate districts whose boundaries fall completely within the county.
The delegates also will adopt a county party platform, a philosophical document that - as the 1998 draft shows - has continued to be watered down during the past decade.It's not that the platform is meaningless. But county party platforms used to be the most dogmatic documents produced - more strident than the state party platforms and, at times, used as litmus tests by party hard-liners against the more moderate candidates.
This year's Salt Lake County GOP platform, in its draft form, doesn't even contain a clear anti-abortion plank - something one would have certainly found in documents of years gone by. The current platform talks about the sanctity of life and says families have the responsibility of protecting their members.
In fact, except for several references to opposing affirmative-action hiring quotas and support of Utah's Right-To-Work law, even some Democrats could probably agree with most of the Republicans' philosophical statement.
Of course, amendments could be proposed from the convention floor. And some of the most entertaining moments at county and state political conventions come over platform and resolution fights. As of Friday, 17 resolutions had been submitted for consideration, including several affirming the right of those with concealed weapons permits to carry their firearms about anywhere, declaring English the official state language and requiring a vote of the people before taxes could be raised.
There already are a couple of controversies brewing Saturday:
- In House District 22 - the district that covers Magna and parts of West Valley City - candidate Michael Jensen is upset that he has to pay $50 before he can speak to delegates in his contest.
Jensen's wife, Rose, said no one told Jensen he had to pay more than the candidate-filing fee to participate in the election. "He has some very important stands on issues like gun control" and other matters. "But if we don't come up with $50, he can't talk" at the convention, Rose Jensen said. It's sad that you have to be rich, or come up with extra money, to run a viable campaign, she said.
The $50 charge stands, said GOP county chairman Bill Quist. "We're sorry, but we have to pay for the convention," estimated to cost $15,000. "We believe the beneficiaries of the convention, the candidates, should contribute. We have no other way to raise the money."
The $50-per-candidate fee helps pay for the $200 cost of renting each caucus room in the Salt Palace and the cost to clean up after the convention.
Quist said he charges the money up front, before the caucuses. "Otherwise, people being people, they would never pay it" after the convention was over. If Jensen doesn't pay the $50, he can't address the District 22 caucus. His name would still appear on the ballot, and he could stand outside the caucus room, grabbing delegates as best he could to discuss his candidacy, said Quist.
- Various Republican delegates have reported being contacted by "Voter Consumer Research" asking how they are going to vote in the County Commission races today.
But the pollsters have refused to say who they are working for. When pressed, they refer questions to supervisors in Houston, Texas, and Bethesda, Md., who also decline to name the mystery client.
That client could be David Marshall, who is running for the open seat being vacated by Democrat Randy Horiuchi. While other GOP candidates flatly denied buying the poll, Marshall told the Deseret News: "I can't confirm or deny" being behind it.
When asked, hypothetically, why a candidate would not want to be associated with a poll he has commissioned, Marshall said, "You don't want any prejudices entering into it."
Polling delegates is not unheard of, but it is expensive and is usually done only in big-ticket races, like the U.S. Senate and House.
The seat Marshall is running for has a crowded field of Republican candidates - five - and will probably require three repeated ballots to see which one (or two) makes it out of the convention. Of the candidates, Steve Harmsen is a former Salt Lake City commissioner, Margaret Peterson is a West Valley City councilwoman, Mark Shurtleff is a deputy county attorney, Paul Walker is an east-side community activist, and Marshall is the County Commission chief of staff.
GOP Commissioner Mary Callaghan is being challenged by fellow Republicans Charles Waldo and Wendy Smith. Smith has the endorsement of GOP Commissioner Brent Overson, who has been crossways with Callaghan over a number of issues, and other county leaders and is viewed as Callaghan's biggest threat. Callaghan has been endorsed by various state elected officials. As reported in Friday's Deseret News, several days ago Overson sent a letter to county delegates severely criticizing Callaghan and asking delegates to vote for Smith - an unusual tact taken against a fellow Republican commission member.
Callaghan isn't the only Republican incumbent with intraparty challengers: County Auditor Craig Sorensen and District Attorney Neal Gunnarson will have opponents today.
The district attorney's race could be the most interesting. As of next January, Gunnarson's office will be consolidated with the office of county attorney - now held by Doug Short, who is not running. Gunnarson has been criticized for his investigation into Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Cor-ra-di-ni's acceptance of $231,000 in gifts from wealthy Utahns; Gunnarson declined to charge Corradini with any crime. Gunnarson suffered a public-relations fiasco last fall when he trashed a pile of newspapers containing an article critical of him.
A number of GOP candidates who filed last month have dropped out. In some cases, that means there will be no convention fight for those seats because only one Republican remains.
- County auditor candidate Mark Hashimoto withdrew. Incumbent Craig Sorenson now faces only Roy Drew at the convention.
- Senate District 3, Marlow Draney is out, leaving John Christensen and Fred Jones.
- Senate District 10, Russell Cannon is out. Incumbent Sen. Al Mansell now faces only Paul Smith.
- Senate District 12, Ronald Garff and Don Maruji are out, leaving Marden King and James Leigh in the race.
- House District 33, Steven Jensen is out, John Cannon gets the GOP nomination.
- House District 34, incumbent Orville Carnahan withdrew. Kory Holdaway is the only Republican in the race.
- House District 35, Douglas Grassi is out, giving Kevin Arrington the nomination.
- House District 40, Steve Anderson and Paul Olsen are out. Incumbent Rep. Richard Walsh gets the nomination.
- House District 41, Mark Steffensen is out, giving Athelia Woolley the nomination.
- House District 45, Eddie Ebbert is out, giving House Speaker Mel Brown the Republican nomination.