MIDVALE — Evan Boberg, a used car salesman, believes a federal appeals court made a bad decision Tuesday when it effectively allowed Utah candidates to continue gathering voter signatures to make their way onto primary election ballots.
“They’re wrong,” said Boberg, a Republican precinct chairman for Sandy’s District 2. “I think a political party has a right to determine how it selects a candidate.”
Boberg and dozens of other Republicans met in classrooms at Hillcrest High School Tuesday in Midvale Tuesday night, one of several such meetings statewide. Utah political parties held the gatherings in cities across the state to elect delegates and cast votes for candidates to run in primary and general elections.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Stacie Thornton said of the ruling from a panel of three judges. Thornton, 55, of Murray, said she believes delegates can better evaluate candidates because they typically spend more time with them than do other voters who aren't as involved with political parties.
“I see it as less personal and less accountable,” Thornton said of the signature path. Several people affiliated with political campaigns have come to her home seeking to collect signatures, she said, but she’s been left without a sense of the candidates because they aren’t the ones knocking on her door.
But not all of Boberg’s and Thornton’s fellow caucusgoers at Hillcrest agreed with them.
Bradley Dance, 47, of Midvale, added his name to a list of signatures supporting former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in his bid to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is retiring.
Dance said the controversial law has divided his party at the state level but he doesn't take issue with 2-1 decision issued Tuesday by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
“If someone’s out there working their butt off to get this done,” said Dance, who is the cultural events coordinator for the city of Riverton, “why not?”
Boberg said he hopes the Utah GOP will appeal the decision on the 2014 law, a compromise between lawmakers and supporters of a ballot initiative seeking to replace the convention nomination process with a direct primary election. He said the law hampers the Utah Republican Party from ousting candidates that he believes are not conservative enough to earn a spot on the primary ballot.
Meantime, a ballot initiative called Keep My Voice seeks to undo the signature path established by the four-year-old law.
“I hope it carries,” Boberg said.
Just a few miles away, at Midvale Middle School, Democratic caucusgoers listened to several candidates speak before casting votes.
There wasn’t any discussion of the Tuesday court ruling, but Democrat Steven Taylor, 31, of Murray, said outside the meeting that “I see no downside to it,” saying he feels the law gives ordinary Utahns more power to choose who they want in office.
“I think it’s fantastic,” added Andrew Stoddard, a Democratic candidate for Utah Legislature and assistant prosecutor in Murray. “I feel like the signature path, as well as the caucus path, gives everyone a voice. It essentially gives all constituents a chance to say who they want to represent them. I think that’s fair."10 comments on this story
Kelli Peterson, a 39-year-old delegate from Murray, was more measured.
“Parties should be able to make their own rules, because the candidate ends up representing all of us, it has to be a fair process,” she said. Peterson said she believes there are pros and cons under both the signature and caucus/convention options.
Those gathering signatures might be more likely to make rounds in neighborhoods during the day, when people are generally at work, Peterson said, but caucus meetings can be difficult for parents of young children to attend.