“Utah is… a different place,” Donald Trump said on the campaign trail.
He probably wasn’t making a reference to the Beehive State’s convoluted three-stage election process, which is a bit of a bee in the bonnet for the state’s Republican Party.
Utah has long held neighborhood caucuses that select delegates to a state convention, where candidates are selected for a primary election.
The caucus system has allowed a motivated minority of right-wing conservatives to knock off popular incumbents in the state Republican convention. In 2014, momentum was building for Count My Vote, a ballot initiative that would scrap the caucus in favor of a direct primary.
Utah legislature tries a compromises to save caucuses, but GOP isn’t biting
Sensing the motivation behind the initiative, the Utah legislature inserted itself into the process. They tried to stem the tide of Count My Vote with Senate Bill 54, legislation that preserved the caucus system – but also allowed for candidates to make an end run around it by gathering sufficient signatures to get on a primary ballot without subjecting themselves to the will of the delegates.
The problem: The Utah Republican Party hates SB54 with a passion. The party has sued multiple times to eliminate it and get the old caucuses back, but they’ve lost every time.
As a result, in Utah – that state which consistently cast the highest percentage of votes for GOP presidential candidates until Donald Trump – the Republican Party is now more half a million dollars in debt.
Even the state GOP chairman, elected on a platform of scrapping the lawsuit, can’t end it
Party donors have dried up funding the state GOP’s repeated tilting at windmills.
The newest state party chairman, Rob Anderson, was elected on the basis of his promise to scrap the lawsuits. But even he bowed to party pressure and allowed the latest suit to continue. Last weekend, he finally announced (again) that he was dropping the case.
Once again, Utah Republicans expresses their open defiance against the will of the people and insisted on continuing the lawsuit.
(Photo of Utah Republican Chairman Rob Anderson from the Denver Post.)