Chris Herrod on: The SB54 Repealer and The Caucus/Convention System

Rep. Jake Anderegg’s bill to repeal SB 54 has now languished in rules for over two weeks.  This can only mean two things . . . either House leadership doesn’t want it out of rules . . . or Senate Leadership doesn’t want it out. The narrative probably goes something like this:  “We don’t want to put the body on record again” or “It’s such a contentious issue . . . let’s just let it be and not waste valuable time.”  Leadership probably believes that they can weather the storm by simply saying “I support the Caucus” and hopes the court will bail them out by not making them face the delegates again.  They must believe that delegates will buy their silence as supporting the caucus or will simply give them a pass.

I think this is foolish . . . here’s why:

This year has all the makings of 2010 which means that it’s going to be tough year for incumbents who are unresponsive to delegates. The leading presidential candidates in both parties are running anti-establishment campaigns . . .  the establishment’s presidential candidates probably won’t even be around by March 22nd  . . . which leaves only those who are already skeptical about politicians going to the caucuses.  Add to this, the recent Utah Policy polls that show that 50% of delegates strongly oppose SB 54 with another 12% somewhat oppose and the fact that 44% of delegates are less likely to vote for a candidate that is gathering signatures (only 5% are more likely to vote for a candidate gathering signatures) and this has all the making for a very bad year for the establishment.

So in all likelihood, legislators who voted for SB 54 and refuse to vote again, are putting their political careers all on the line for a favorable court ruling.  Having attended the SB 54 hearing last week, I believe this is unwise.  There’s a good chance that SB 54 will be thrown out or at very least delayed because Judge Nuffer has already made it perfectly clear that the State cannot tell a party how to define membership.  The numbers set in statute for signatures are clearly unconstitutional and so legislators will thus be forced once again to face their delegates.

This year I doubt that delegates will buy “I voted for SB 54 to preserve the caucus” or better yet my favorite “I voted to destroy the caucuses to preserve the caucuses.” One might have been able to claim they were trying to protect the party earlier, but everyone knows how the party and grassroots feel after two years of fighting and  a state convention.  “I was simply looking out for the best interest of the Party” will not fly.  Besides, it’s already obvious that SB 54 is nothing more than the incumbent protection act and is actually producing less competition . . . not more as was rallying cry of Count My Vote which is not surprising . . . the founders always know more than modern day liberals  . . . mess with the Constitution and bad things happen.

If I had voted for SB 54 (which I wouldn’t have – I testified against it), I would want another chance to change my vote and yet this is being denied to the rank and file.  It’s not leadership that will suffer but the rank and file that will  . . . just like two years ago when three rank and file legislators lost their seats because of SB 54 . . . it wasn’t leadership or bill sponsors who lost their seats and so I hope legislators think long and hard about whose best interest is being looked after.  I worry for those who have just been elect . . .  whose eyes haven’t been completely opened yet because the first re-election is usually the most difficult.

. . . but just when I thought courage was dead,  Representative Justin Fawson rose to the occasion.  I give him kudos to him as well as the 24 other legislators who supported him for their bravery. Rep. Fawson tried to substitute Representative Cox’s bill with a bill that clearly states that Political Parties the right to choose their election process.  I wish him the best with the rest of his bills and hope that leadership will not punish him for doing what’s right and voting his conscious.

I especially appreciate Rep. Ray’s honest comments on the floor when he said that everyone knows where they stand and to not use “cycling” as a way to simply avoid the debate. It now looks like the vote against circling Fawson’s substitution may very well be the last time for Representatives voice their opposition to SB 54 . . . I doubt it will see the light of day despite many claiming that they simply needed more time.

It’s very interesting to see that some who previously voted for SB 54 took the opportunity to correct their vote and will most certainly be used by some to seek forgiveness from delegates.  I say better late than never.

The great irony is that County My Vote and SB 54 supporters may very likely produce the opposite of what they intended.  Rather than moderating the legislature, they could very well unintentionally produce the most conservative shift in recent history. It’s going to be an interesting year!


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