It is remarkable to see establishment politicians and Count My Vote (CMV) supporters rushing to criticize caucus and convention delegates, labeling them extreme, ultra conservative or passionate delegates. They point to two of the most recent elections to make their case, the 2016 gubernatorial race between Gov. Gary Herbert vs. Jonathan Johnson and the 2017 3rd Congressional District Special Election between Chris Herrod and John Curtis.
First, under current Republican caucus convention rules, if a candidate fails to obtain 60 percent of the vote, the top two candidates advance to a primary election. Gov. Herbert obtained 45 percent and Jonathan Johnson received 55 percent; both candidates advanced to the next round where Gov. Herbert won the primary election with 72 percent of the vote. The caucus had it right, Jonathan Johnson failed to make a compelling case to delegates, who in turn referred the election to Utah Republican voters; the caucus convention system worked.
Second, on a special election, Herrod won with 55 percent of the vote where John Curtis failed to make it to the final round; delegates voted for a conservative candidate. Obviously, John Curtis message did not resonate with delegates.
The caucus system worked, the signature gathering process has inflicted real damage to the Republican Party election process. For the first time in Utah, a candidate selected by the minority is representing the majority of Republican voters. This makes the case for the repeal of SB54 or the Count My Vote elitist compromise. It explains why the majority of the Republican State Central Committee voted to continue the legal challenge against SB54 and find it unconstitutional because it violates the freedom of association rights of a private organization.
In a recent article published by the Salt Lake Tribune, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox wasted no time attacking the caucus convention delegates by making the suggestion that they had elected a candidate who did not reflect the views of the majority of Utah voters, really?
Exit results indicate delegates had it right, here is why:
- Herrod won four out of seven counties or 57 percent of the geographical territory.
- Fifty-seven percent of voters cast their votes for someone other than John Curtis.
- Therefore, 57 percent of voters expressed through their vote that Mr. Curtis did not reflect their values.
- Curtis failed to receive 50 percent of the vote in each of the three counties he won (Wasatch 37 percent, Utah County, 47 percent, and Salt Lake County 39 percent). Delegates had it right, Curtis did not reflect their values; he reflects the views of the minority or 43 percent of voters.
- Curtis had a record that neither the majority of delegates or Republican voters could identify with.
Herrod had extensive conservative credentials vetted by delegates. Tanner Ainge ran on a conservative message similar to that of Herrod. But there was one crucial difference: He was never vetted by delegates. Curtis had an extensive record that neither the majority of delegates or Republican voters could identify with.
If anything has divided the GOP in Utah, it is the elitists' condescending attitude toward pro CMV elected officials. Their inflammatory language labeling delegates extreme, passionate, ultra conservative and power hungry is misleading. The fact is that this so called power is split among 4,000 delegates and 180 State Central Committee members. On the other hand, the 2016 list of wealthy CMV donors has less than 24 members. Who are the power mongers here?
The CMV dual path was crafted to give a huge advantage to establishment politicians — the political elite, the good ole boys club and wealthy individuals. The caucus system is designed to level the playing field; it also gives an opportunity to conservatives who can connect with voters.
One thing is for certain, the Republican 3rd Congressional District primary results prove that convention delegates are in touch with the majority of Republican voters in Utah.
Arturo Morales-LLan is a member of the Utah Republican State Central Committee, a state delegate and recipient of the 2014 FreedomWorks National Activist of the Year Award.