Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Fix is In, Utah legislators keep getting elected, here is why

The problem here in Utah nobody, especially elected officials want to admit is the fix is in here in Utah. This goes both ways for the Democrats and the Republicans so this is not directed at either party.

There is turnover in the legislature to be sure, but it is controlled by the very elected officials that are leaving office.

Having been on the “inside” of the Republican Party all my life, I have never seen a more “the fix is in” system anywhere else in the country other than maybe Illinois.

An elected state Representative here in Utah (from either party) needs only a handful (about 50) friends and neighbors to keep happy and re-elected as delegates each two years to stay in office. The State Senators only need about 100 delegates every four years, and the Federal guys need 700-1500 delegates. The caucus system here in Utah can and will continue to be gamed by skilled operatives.

The other concerning issue here in Utah is their really is no true turnover in the legislature. When an elected official decides to leave the legislature, they essentially hand pick their replacement and just before their term is up they “retire”. The local county party holds a special caucus meeting of the delegates in that district. Usually this is only attended by “diehard” party people and those “friends” of the retiring legislator. The retiring legislator then in the caucus meeting introduces their handpicked replacement to all the delegates, and then “nominates” them when the meeting is called for a vote. I would say a nearly 100% success for this strategy is used by those elected officials. These caucus meetings may have only a handful of people, sometimes less than 10 delegates. So the fix is in.

Then these hand picked replacements are sworn into office and become the incumbent for the next election cycle allowing then to receive the mothers milk of elections, lobbyist money. It is almost impossible to replace an incumbent elected official in this state. Both sides know this and take advantage of this to maintain their seats in the Legislature.

The only way this will change is for the citizens of Utah to create an easier access to the ballot.

Having lived in Washington State and Alaska the election process seems to be a more open choice for the people to decide, not the hard line left or right.

Look at how moderate Republicans are treated here in Utah, even elected ones. You are a RINO if you do not agree 100% with the power brokers within the party, especially on the issue of vouchers.

As long as our current system decides the election on caucus night, nothing will change. Our elected officials don’t want it changed for obvious reasons, so what to do?

What chance does any candidate that is fiscally conservative but socially moderate have in ever receiving the nomination from either major party here in Utah, especially in Salt Lake City? How about zero, nada, zilch.

The third parties here in Utah all have some kind of issue that drives them. The Green party is the environment. The constitution party is even more right wing than the GOP.

So what to do? You can’t get a constitutional amendment before the voters without it passing the Legislature, so we again have no say in how we elect our officials.

This is why the need for a Unaffiliated Party of Utah. If candidates were allowed to run unaffiliated without having to obtain thousands of signatures, they could run against each other for a place on the general election ballot to be decided on the primary election. Both of the other major parties would be unaffected, and voters would actually have several choices other than the two major parties to choose from.

What a novel idea, actually letting the voters of Utah select the best candidate regardless of party affiliation.

2 comments:

BenJoe said...

Though I enjoyed most of your post, I point out the recent Brent Wallis election vs. Ed Allen. Demo's held district 10 for 18 years and lost it.

After the convention it still comes down to voters to elect someone. Sometimes the delegates push you through but the voters make it happen in the end. Look at the Karras/Huntsman primary. Delegates pushed Karras to nearly 48% of the vote in the convention, upsetting Lampropoulos. However voters didn't vote for Karras in the primary and he lost by a huge margin.

So you can have a perfect delegate machine, but that is only half the battle.

Mark E. Towner said...

BenJoe,

It was public education and the endorsement by the UEA that gave Karras his second place in convention. The delegates that supported Walker went to Karras once she was eliminated. In regards to Wallis and Ed Allen in district 10 I don't know the specifics of the race to shed any light on the eventual outcome. My comments fit 95% of the cases here in Utah and I would say that was significant.