Thursday, March 5, 2015

Utah Republican Party Moving Closer to 2016 Caucuses

This flew under FHQ's radar in the recent flurry of legislative action on presidential primary laws across the nation.

The Utah Republican Party voted unanimously in an emergency meeting on Wednesday, February 18 in favor of a resolution to hold caucuses next year in the presidential nomination race in lieu of continuing with the state-funded primary. The move is yet more fallout from the continued flap over the nomination process for most offices in Utah that has pitted the Utah Republican Party against the state legislature/government.

FHQ has touched on this divide some already, but Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune sums up the battle lines quite nicely here:
Under the SB54 compromise struck last session, candidates can go through a party's convention and try to win the nomination by gaining support from delegates chosen at neighborhood caucuses. Alternatively, they can gather a requisite number of signatures from eligible voters to secure a spot on the primary ballot.
It is that latter option that the Utah Republican Party has objected to and has ultimately dragged the party's 2016 delegate selection process for president into the fray. The Executive Committee of the party passed the resolution to make the switch from primary to caucuses at the February meeting, but the Utah Republican Party Central Committee has to actually make the changes to the state party bylaws bring the switch to fruition. The group is set to meet on Saturday, March 7 to address the matter.

The impending Saturday meeting has prompted reaction from Mitt Romney, the Republican standard bearer in the 2012 presidential election. In a letter to party and government officials, Romney made the case for a primary over a caucuses/convention system, urging the letter's audience to get behind legislation currently before the state legislature to move the primary election back into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules. Of course, regardless of how the state government moves on that March primary bill, the state party will have the final say in how its delegates to the national convention are chosen. Right now, it appears that the Utah Republican Party is moving toward caucuses, but the big guns have been brought out to urge the party to reconsider.

NOTE: Saturday may be an interesting day for the primary calendar. Utah Republicans will not be alone in looking to switch from a primary to caucuses. Kentucky Republicans will be considering a similar change at a meeting of their own on March 7.

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