Monday, February 2, 2015

Utah Again Linked to Possible Western Regional Primary

FHQ chimed in about the possibility of Utah Republicans shifting from a primary to a caucuses/convention system in 2016 yesterday. But as Bryan Schott at Utah Policy reports, there is maybe another layer to the primary/caucuses story.

Yes, Schott mentions the same tension between a state party perhaps wanting caucuses and a Republican-controlled state government with at least some support for maintaining the primary system for allocating national convention delegates in the 2016 presidential nominations races. He also notes the very same double whammy the Utah primary options face; non-compliant on both ends of the calendar.

The real noteworthy addition to all that though, is that Utah Democrats -- or their chairman, Peter Corroon, anyway -- are supportive of joining a March 22 western regional primary. This is not the first time this idea has come up. Last spring, after the Utah legislative session closed and killed the bill that would have tried to move Utah ahead of Iowa, there was also talk of Utah joining forces with Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming on the same date for a regional primary in 2016. Again, this idea is not new, but it has yet to be pulled off as successfully as southern states managed in 1988. The notion was championed by former Utah governor, Mike Leavitt, as far back as the 1996 cycle (see Busch 2000). The 2000 calendar found the Utah primary sharing an early March date with just Colorado and Wyoming.

But that was as far as it went.

Now, it appears that that option is on the table for 2016. Arizona moved back to March 22 during its 2014 legislative session. And now that date is being discussed in some circles in Utah again. All is quiet in the other states, but that is something to watch as winter transitions into spring this year.

From the Utah perspective, this is another layer, but if the date can get changed -- either the June primary date or most likely the February "Western States Presidential Primary" date -- that may offer added enticement to a Utah Republican Party that may be leaning toward holding caucuses next year. If a state-funded option exists at a point on the calendar that is workable to the state parties, that goes a long way toward keeping the primary going.1

1 The thought of Utah Republicans demanding a $50,000 filing fee as a means of paying for the caucuses is probably far-fetched. Schott rightly notes that it will be difficult for the party to command that high a price for caucuses that may or may not be the only game in town on a particular date on the calendar. It is a plan seemingly destined to backfire.

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