Thursday, February 5, 2015

2016 Utah Presidential Primary Miscellany

There are a few things floating around related to the Utah presidential primary situation that deserve some attention, but do not really constitute stand-alone posts.

FHQ thought Utah state Rep. Jon Cox (R-58th, Ephraim) had a nice piece up over at Utah Policy the other day.1 Among other things he discussed:
  1. The chair of the Republican Party in Utah did not know that the two dates/options for the 2016 presidential primary in the Beehive state were not compliant with the RNC rules. This sort of thing always amazes me until I remember not everyone is as obsessive about this stuff as I am. Still, it is noteworthy. But in reality, the June primary was compliant in 2012, and FHQ is sure the thinking/assumption in Utah was that it would be in 2016 as well. It is not. 

  2. Rep. Cox does not speak for the Utah state legislature nor the Utah state government, but it really is fascinating when there are intra-party divisions that occur with a state government on one side and the state party on the other. In the Utah case, both sides are Republican. It was Republican division in Idaho a few years ago as well. There is some element of support for maintaining a primary system within the state government, but the state party backs the caucuses/convention system. That speaks to some divergence between elected officials in the state legislature and those in charge within the state party. It is not exactly the same of situation as that hypothesized about in the Meinke et al. research, but there are parallels. In Meinke, the hypothesis was that states where the the powers that be within the state party are ideologically different from the rank-and-file voters of their party would be more likely to see the state party attempt to close off the delegate selection process (i.e.: moving to caucuses). When the space between the party and voters was great, the likelihood of a closed process or caucuses was much greater. The party wants to exert more control over the nomination process. In Utah, though, it is the state government and not the voters at odds with the state party. But the state party backs a closed caucuses/convention process.
FHQ has seen it said in a couple of places since all these Utah stories went to press that the origin of the February presidential primary in the state dates to 2013 and a bill introduced by Rep. Kraig Powell (R-54th, Heber City). That is not the case.

The Western States Presidential Primary came about because of legislation passed during the Utah legislature's 1999 session. Again, it was part of an effort spearheaded by Governor Mike Leavitt to encourage a regional primary among some of the non-coastal western states. The date at first was not in February though. Initially, the date of the Western States Presidential Primary was set for the first Friday after the first Monday in March. Yes, a Friday primary. And in 2000, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming Republicans held delegate selection events on that Friday, March 10.

After Utah Democrats held a party-run presidential primary in then-compliant February for the 2004 cycle, the Utah legislature shifted the date of the Western States Presidential Primary up to the first Tuesday in February. That legislation passed in 2006 and was in effect for the 2008 cycle. And the Western States Presidential Primary has remained in that spot ever since.

Of course, for the 2012 cycle, the Utah legislature did not appropriate funds for the February primary, meaning that there was no February election option. The state party voted to utilize the June primary for state and local offices in June 2011 and legislature later accommodated the party by passing a bill that allowed the party to do just that.

The 2013 action by Rep. Powell and the Utah state legislature was to clarify this set up; to provide a contingency that funding was necessary for the February primary to proceed, and if money was not appropriated, the June primary was an option (as called for in the 2011 change).

The February Utah presidential primary, then, dates back to 2006 legislation, not 2013.

1 Yes, that is the same Jon Cox who introduced the bill to move the Utah presidential primary ahead of Iowa last year.

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