Rolly: Mailer raises another problem with Utah’s delegate system

By paul rolly

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: April 25, 2014 07:46AM
Updated: April 25, 2014 09:28AM
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Paul Rolly

V icki Griffith has a problem in her quest to become a state senator from Utah’s District 12.

It’s not necessarily because she is challenging an incumbent for the Republican nomination at Saturday’s GOP state convention. Nor is it because she is from Tooele County, while the multi-county district is dominated by Salt Lake County, the home base of her Republican foe, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City.

Her main problem is that when she has sought delegate support, many have told her they are voting for Thatcher because he has the party’s official endorsement.

He doesn’t.

By party rule, the GOP is to remain neutral in convention and primary races involving more than one Republican.

But perception can go a long way.

Thatcher recently sent a mailer to delegates that included the announcement: “Paid for by the Utah Republican Party.” It also listed the state party’s mailing address.

State GOP Chairman James Evans says the party makes available its discounted bulk postage rate to all Republican candidates. If a candidate uses that perk, by federal law, the mailer must carry the disclaimer that it is paid for by the party, even though the candidate reimburses the GOP.

Thatcher’s mailer was sent with a stamp, rather than a metered postmark. Evans says it’s a Forever stamp the GOP got at the reduced rate. Thatcher then paid back the party.

Griffith says she wasn’t notified about that perk until Thatcher’s mailer already went out. Evans says he offered Griffith the same privilege, but she said she already had sent her campaign materials to delegates without being aware of the opportunity to use the party’s stamps.

During the reign of former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, it was well known that in an intraparty race, one Republican would be able to use the party’s postal privileges only if the other Republican approved it and was given the same offer beforehand.

Thatcher is the only legislative candidate facing a GOP rival who took advantage of that pre-convention perk this year.

Party postmarks and the “paid for” disclaimer usually appear in general elections after candidates have already secured nominations.

Evans says the party is just trying to save the candidates’ money. He offered to issue a statement for Griffith letting delegates know the party is neutral in the convention race.

Republicans shunning Republicans • Once again, the most strident of the anti-County My Vote activists, who stress the need to keep the caucus/convention system for nominating candidates, have made an argument for Count My Vote.

Tea party Republicans Nancy Lord and Lowell Nelson, both former GOP officers, tried to get more than 100 delegates disqualified from voting in Saturday’s state convention.

That would make the candidate-selection process even more exclusive than it already is.

Lord, the former GOP national committeewoman from Utah, and Nelson, the former state Republican vice chairman, issued a formal challenge Wednesday to the State Republican Party Credentials Committee, seeking to disqualify those who are automatic delegates because they hold either elected public office or an elected party post.

About half the counties reserve a number of their delegate slots at the state convention through such automatic appointments. County parties make their own rules on delegate selection, but Lord and Nelson wanted them overturned by the credentials panel.

The committee voted unanimously to dismiss the challenge. Its chairman, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the counties should be able to make their own credentialing rules rather than having a top-down approach usurp their authority. He noted the people making the challenge are the ones who decry the federal government taking away authority from the state.

The challenge renews a fundamental philosophical battle in Utah’s GOP between those who believe delegates should be selected only at their neighborhood caucus meetings and those who argue elected officials, who represent a broader base, should have automatic seats at the table.

Count My Vote, which would replace the caucus/convention system with a direct primary, was launched by folks who argued the current system is too exclusive and left out too many party supporters.

The attempt to further narrow the candidate-selection process bolsters their point.

prolly@sltrib.com