Two weeks ago, the Utah Republican State Central Committee overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to change the current caucus-system. Now, the Utah Democratic Party has announced that their delegates will make a decision of their own in June.
Utah’s caucus-system has been a point of contention over the past few years, primarily in the Republican Party between the Party establishment and tea party activists. The fight began wholeheartedly just after the 2010 elections, when a handful of tea partiers took over the majority of delegate slots, and ousted longtime US Senator Bob Bennett in favor of the more tea party leaning Mike Lee. Alarmed party insiders, including Kirk Jowers and former governor Mike Leavitt, immediately began a push back against the takeover, claiming it wasn’t right for a handful of extreme activists to be able to control which candidates make it onto the ballot.
In the 2012 election, US Senator Orrin Hatch, who was being challenged by tea party favorite Dan Liljenquist and was understandably worried that he might be ousted as well, reportedly spent several million dollars working to replace the more extreme delegates with moderate Republicans.
Until now, Utah Democrats have largely remained silent on the issue, with Senator Jim Dabakis (who also serves as the Party’s chairman) saying that the problem “is a Republican problem..”
But a press release this morning says that the Democrats may be jumping into the fight, and will have a straight up or down vote on whether to continue with caucus system or move to a direct primary at their convention in June. Dabakis says in the release:
“Utah Democrats must be the ones who decide the fate of their own party’s nomination system. Open debate and a transparent process have always been hallmarks of the Democratic Party… There has been a well-financed effort by a few Republican powerbrokers to change the current system to suit their own needs. We reject attempts to encourage UTah Democrats to bail out the Republican Party on this issue. If Utah’s GOP establishment does not have enough courage or respect for their delegates to let them decide their party’s fate at an open convention, they cannot expect Utah Democrats to rescue them.”
The subject of changing the caucus system isn’t done in the Republican Party by a long shot. According to Leavitt and Jowers, a ballot iniative is underway to push the changes through.
The Democratic Party has setup a website on the issue HERE.