Keeping the Caucuses

KEEPING THE CAUCUSES

There is a movement underway to change the way our state election process works called “Count My Vote”, and I oppose the effort. Currently we use a caucus/convention cycle. Each precinct holds party caucuses to select delegates who vet our candidate pool. This current system allows neighborhoods to select fellow neighbors to meet, listen to, and pose questions to those who would seek to represent us.

There has been criticism that delegates chosen from respective political parties are too extreme and do not represent the opinions or values of the general public. The answer to that criticism would be to encourage greater public participation, not abandon the process. In addition, I have been very impressed over the years with the quality of delegates who have contributed to what I believe is the most substantive election cycle in the country.

If the delegates go to convention and vote 60% or more for a candidate, that candidate avoids a primary. The alternative is direct access to the primaries held by political parties. These campaigns are dependent on direct mail, yard signs, and messaging to large populations. Mass communications are very expensive, and do not allow for an in-depth discussion of issues. The financially well off and those with access to special interest contributions become more politically viable than candidates with less resources –but possibly better ideas and vision.

Primaries can be very hard on good candidates. If two opponents from the same party aren’t careful, they can damage that party’s ability to mount a strong opposition to another party’s candidate who was not required to go through a primary. We have seen this nationally in the last presidential election. Regardless of how you feel about Mitt Romney, I think we can agree that he went in to the general election a weakened candidate against Barack Obama, due to the brutal primary process he faced.

If the “Count My Vote” initiative received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, I suspect that a populist appeal to allow every vote to count by eliminating the caucus/convention cycle would likely pass.

A change to direct primaries probably won’t change much for me, because I will be able to raise sufficient resources to run my campaigns. But philosophically, I would greatly miss the delegate meetings, questions and answers –and the opportunity to really delve into important policy matters with those that carry the weight of their precincts.

It will be a sad day if we see the last true delegate election in America go away. Sound bites and campaign slogans shouldn’t replace in-depth analysis of our candidates.

Greg Hughes
Utah State House of Representatives,

District 51