Utah Republican Party Chair, Thomas Wright, sounded the alarm about the caucus system which he said is under attack by powerful interests who want primary elections. According to Wright, primary proponents will get their initiative on the ballot and it will pass unless the caucus system is reformed.
“I want to be chairman that modernizes this great system that we have,” Wright said. “Without this system, we wouldn’t have the average person, like Herbert and Chaffetz.”
Wright told Committee members that it was up to them to change the system and announced that a website had been created to help the party determine how it can improve the way it chooses candidates. The site allows individuals to submit ideas or proposals and to comment on those submitted.
Upon entering the meeting, each Committee member received a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? Referring to the book, Wright said that “We can be like mice and asked who moved our cheese. We can wait for someone to move it or we can move our cheese somewhere else.”
Wright then opened the floor to discussion suggesting that comments focus on broad concepts and not on specifics. He asked people to be civil to one another and to stop attacking each other on Facebook.
First to come forward, was Stan Lockhart, the spouse of Speaker of the Utah House of Reprewsentatives, Becky Lockhart. Lockhart expressed strong support for the caucus system and keeping it close to the people. However, he said the he recognizes that the Party must evolve because the world is changing. He encouraged party members to look at where the world is going and to get there. He acknowledged that at the present time “We don’t have the answers. The longer we talk about this the more options there are.” He acknowledged that he did not know what the outcome would be.
Three former candidates talked about how the current system allowed them to compete for office with only limited resources.
- Former state representative, Fred Cox was applauded when he said that “The caucus system is the only way people without money can compete.”
- Former U.S. Congresswoman, Enid Greene Mickelsen warned that “If we do away with caucus system, the only people elected will be the rich and famous.” However, she acknowledged that there is a groundswell for change and that the Party needs to modernize. She told those present that the people against caucus system are not reformers. They are the professional, political elites who believe that money trumps the common people. Thus, “We are the people who are going to modernize the current system and make it more inclusive.”
- Mia Love said that the current system gives ordinary people an opportunity to run for office. “I’m a PTA Mom. I was able to compete. Why? Because of the caucus system. The caucus system lets ordinary people be extraordinary,” said Love
Others brought up a wide range of points.
· Why not push back on those supporting a primary system. Do we really want six candidates on a primary ballot with the eventual nominee receiving only 20% of the vote?
· It is necessary to define the role of the convention. Is it to pass resolutions or to put candidates on the ballot? Conventions bring candidates and party activists together. Primaries don’t do that and they result in pushing elected officials away from the voters.
· Increase the number of delegates to 5,000, abolish closed primaries and address the issue of automatic delegates.
· Make more effective use of precinct chairs. Provide training and given neighbors a voice through their precinct chair.
· The party will never be viable unless it puts candidates on a primary ballot. To be a viable party, we need a primary.
· We are going to be attacked no matter what we do. Don’t make radical changes that take away power from the grassroots. Mia Love could have won had the Party not alienated some of its voters.
· We need to find a way to keep both our principles and the caucus/convention system while streamlining the process. What if we did an electronic caucus?
· I hope that this time can we can put away some of our preconceived notions and come up with good solutions Its unfair for the caucus system to be under attack at this time since last year’s caucuses were the most representative ever.
· If instant runoff voting rather than multiple ballots were used it would make caucus voting faster and more representative.
· The margin in the Mia Love race was less than Libertarian votes cast.
· We need to frame the argument as the little guy against the big guy.
· We all have to be ambassadors and explain why our current system can be more inclusive and more democratic than a primary election that gives power to those with the most money.
A motion was passed to hold another State Central Committee meeting lasting all day if necessary to come up with a reform program.