Rolly: In Utah, Democrats can be as crazy as Republicans
If you think the antics at the State Republican Convention last spring were strange, you should have been at the Democratic State Central Committee meeting on Saturday.
You will recall the weird behavior of Eureka Mayor Milton Hanks, a mysterious candidate for the 2nd Congressional District who had made no effort to campaign and had little support. But he blew up the Republican convention with his speech by claiming a group of candidates conspired against Chris Stewart, whom he painted as a victim, then threw his support behind Stewart, who won the nomination.
Many Republicans to this day believe it was a setup to get Stewart the nomination. He eventually won the seat.
Saturday, when the Democratic Central Committee was choosing a vice chair to replace Jim Judd, who was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year, an eerie group of protesters suddenly showed up at the meeting and began chanting against one of the candidates, Jane Marquart.
Marquart, an attorney, businesswoman and an activist with Equality Utah, has been a stalwart in the Democratic Party. But the nearly dozen detractors began shouting her down when she gave her speech to the Central Committee members.
They interrupted her so many times, the Central Committee voted to have them removed so the meeting could continue.
Their apparent gripe against Marquart is that she is a partner in Management and Training Corporation, an operator of private prisons.
The group was described as a loose organization of protesters who have been involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement and other liberal causes.
They were not members of the Central Committee and, according to Democratic State Chairman Jim Dabakis, not representative of the party.
One of the eight candidates, activist Deb Henry, then used her speech to attack Marquart over the alleged evils of private prisons and later endorsed the eventual winner, Josie Valdez.
Marquart, who came in second, said Valdez had nothing to do with the attacks against her and that she and Valdez have a good relationship.
Other Democratic problems • The House Democratic Caucus announced the appointment of its new communications director Thursday.
The press release was written by the new hire, who noted that she had been the communications director for the successful Ben McAdams for Mayor campaign. But she forgot to put her name in the press release.
For the record, it's Ashley Sumner.
Here's an irony • Could Republican Mia Love have lost her congressional bid to incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson because of voter suppression in Utah County?
Some observers think that is possible.
It wasn't intentional voter suppression, mind you. But the Utah County Clerk's Office made the decision to limit the early voting locations and the hours they were open to save money. It could have cost Love the election.
Utah County was Love's best voting block, giving her 70 percent of the vote in the portion of that county that covered the 4th Congressional District.
But it had just five early voting locations for the two weeks leading up to Election Day, which was one location for every 45,000 registered voters in the county.
By contrast, Salt Lake County, which was Matheson's stronghold, had 21 early voting locations, which was one for every 20,000 registered voters. And while most Utah County locations were open only five hours a day, most of the Salt Lake County locations were open for up to eight hours a day.
The early voting in Utah County accounted for 14.5 percent of the total vote, compared to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Salt Lake County's early voting was 17.6 percent, but that meant more than 76,000 early voters 45,000 more than in Utah County.
While Utah County had a healthy voter turnout of nearly 80 percent of registered voters, Love only lost the election by 768 votes, and observers during the early voting period witnessed long lines at the locations, with some people giving up and leaving.
State Elections Director Mark Thomas said he witnessed defections from the voting lines at several places. Voters were getting so frustrated that by Election Day, Woodland Hills Mayor Steve Lauritzen offered his trained municipal election staff to help the overworked and understaffed Utah County election judges.
Did enough voters give up to make the difference in the outcome? No one will ever know.