Skyler Beltran: Caucus and convention system is worth protecting

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Delegates to the Utah County Republican Convention chose vote in the District 14 race in the "Thunderdome" basketball arena, at Timpview High in Provo, Saturday, April 16, 2016.

As political convention season comes to an end with the conclusion of many county conventions held last weekend and the upcoming state convention this week, it is clear that Utah’s caucus and convention system is the right way for Utah to elect leaders.

With COVID-19 derailing party plans less than a month before caucus night, leaders stepped up to the task. The chatter of forgoing the caucus and convention this year and moving straight to a primary was squashed by defenders of Utah’s most grassroots representative process, the convention.

Although this year’s event didn’t turn out like a typical convention that usually includes booth campaigning, on-the-spot speeches, rounds of all-day voting and mingling with friends and longtime acquaintances, it did accomplish its ultimate purpose of keeping elected leaders grounded to the most local level of politics.

This year’s convention required candidates to act fast and become innovative in answering the question, how will I reach voters? Over the past month, delegates like you and I were able to communicate and vet our prospective representatives through recorded convention speeches, nightly Zoom calls, Facebook Live events, targeted flyers in the mail, emails, texts and personal phone calls. Yes, quite different than usual, but candidate access was at an all-time high.

Who has the time, passion and capability to go through this process? Delegates do. Delegates represent the core of the American republic. They are people willing to go through the process of educating themselves and then represent their neighbors in voting for candidates. Our founding fathers would be proud to see this process.

Others argue that direct primary is the way to go and I respectfully disagree. How local and grassroots are expensive commercials on TV? How about fancy mailers sent to every home that end up in the trash? Newspaper headlines that drive a narrative? Signature-gatherers at doors with no knowledge of their candidates?

The caucus and convention system also foster a process where everyday people have the opportunity to run for offices that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive for them to enter. Primary races are expensive. The caucus and convention system allows candidates to focus and reach out to a small number of people who were entrusted by their neighbors to represent them, without spending thousands of dollars on traditional campaign materials.

Do you think your elected leaders would know your name and have your phone number in a direct primary system? Not a chance.

The answer is clear. Politics and representation work best at the closest level to the people they serve and that is through the caucus and convention system.

I am grateful for the party leaders and delegates who made this year’s digital convention a success. Your participation is vital to protecting what makes Utah politics great.

Skyler Beltran

Skyler Beltran, Lehi, is vice chair of the Utah County Republican Party.