Several Democrats who collected signatures to reach the June 26 primary election ballot were glad they did on Saturday as others learned the hard way what happens when they try and fail to persuade party insiders to pick them as their top choice.
Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen and doctor Jennifer Plumb will be the only two Democrats battling for the liberal Salt Lake City Senate seat that’s being vacated by state Sen. Jim Dabakis. Both collected signatures but also were the top two choices, with more than 28 percent of the vote each, by delegates Saturday at the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention.
They knocked out Tim Chambless, who ran for the District 2 seat but didn’t collect the 2,000 signatures required to qualify for the primary. He said he wished he’d paid a company to help him get on the ballot.
“Where do I start?” Chambless said after learning he wouldn’t move on past Saturday. “If I learned anything from [the loss], I will probably go through the signature route next time.”
Rather than require delegates to vote again to pick a top choice, Kitchen and Plumb agreed to share the nomination.
“I know I did the right thing,” said Kitchen, who eked out a win over Plumb. “We have so much to run on this year. I want to drive as much unity as possible.”
Three candidates running to replace state Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, District 24, for another liberal Salt Lake City seat also agreed to share the nomination after no one received the 60 percent required to move on and two candidates tied.
Jennifer Dailey-Provost claimed 37.84 percent of votes, while Igor Limansky and Jacquelyn Orton earned 20.27 percent each.
Dailey-Provost acknowledged the power of the convention has lost its luster after lawmakers passed Senate Bill 54, an election law that allowed candidates to reach the ballot through signature collection.
“The power of it has been minimized,” she said. But she and others said they were happy to meet with dedicated party members who know the issues of the county.
Candidates spent the first half of the day making quick pitches to groups of insiders broken out into interest areas, including labor unions and Hispanic and female voters.
For Darin Mann, who is a Democratic Socialist, SB54 means he wasn’t eliminated when he finished after Dailey-Provost, Limansky and Orton. Mann also collected signatures, and the four candidates will appear on the primary ballot.
“The establishment is going to make their decision,” Mann said. “That’s why I support the primary. ... The time for buying your seat is over. We need real community leaders.”
Delegates also made their top pick in races for two moderate seats that have been held by Republicans, where no Democrats collected enough signatures to bypass the convention.
For the District 8 Senate seat, 65 percent voted for Kathleen Riebe and 35 percent supported Kathie Allen, ensuring Riebe will make it to the general election in November.
Allen sparked national interest last year when she filed to challenge former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who was chairman of the Oversight Committee. Chaffetz later quit Congress, and Allen lost to former Provo Mayor John Curtis.
Riebe said she liked her chances of winning.
“It’s my seat,” Riebe said. “It’s a Democratic seat, and it needs to be flipped.”
With 73 percent of the vote, Abbey Wright defeated Monica Zoltanski for a shot at the District 9 seat that will open with the retirement of Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. Neither candidate collected signatures, so Wright will become the Democratic Party’s candidate in the general election.