Final: 2008 Utah State Republican Convention


Greg Curtis and John
Valentine, House Speaker and Senate President
Greg Curtis and John Valentine, House Speaker and Senate President
(click to enlarge)

I'm at the Utah State Party Convention this morning. There are literally thousands of people here. Traffic was backed up off the exit ramp near UVU (where the convention is being held). The convention just opened at 10am, but even at 8am, the parking lots were full. People come early to pick up their credentials and wander the candidate booths.

I enjoyed wandering around and talking to a bunch of folks who I normally don't get to see. Lots of old friends and acquaintances here.

Chris Cannon running for Congress in the Third District
Chris Cannon running for Congress in the Third District
(click to enlarge)

We start with prayer, the flag ceremony, the pledge of allegiance, and the national anthem. Carmen Rasmusen Herbert sang the national anthem and it was very nice. She's married to Gary Herbert's (Lt Gov) son Bradley, for what it's worth.

The Utah Republican party has a set of banners up and buttons playing on the "i can" in "republican." "I can provide students an excellent education," "I can give my family a great life," and so on. Very clever and emphasizes the Republican ideal of self sufficiency.

Opening ceremony at the convention
Opening ceremony at the convention
(click to enlarge)

After the opening, we had a credentials report and adopted the rules and agenda for the convention. As usual, there was drama around Mike Ridgeway. Apparently Salt Lake county refused to seat him has a delegate and there was a motion to allow him to be seated at the State convention. It failed. I'm sure there will be more.

We've now moved to the district breakouts. District 3 stayed in the main hall, so I just sat still. The candidates I consider serious contenders in District 3 are Chris Cannon, the incumbent, David Leavitt, and Jason Chaffetz. There's also Joe Fergeson and Stone Fonua who haven't raised much money and haven't been heard from by delegates. They'll get their seven minutes of fame this morning. Fergeson is campaigning against the North American Union and Fonua is campaigning for something called "the Peacemaker."

Jason Chaffetz has raised around $70,000. David Leavitt raised twice that many and Chris Cannon has doubled Leavitt. Not surprising since Chris is the incumbent.

I'm torn between these three. I believe them all to be good men with Utah's best interest at heart. They aren't that far apart politically. I know Chris and Jason well. I've spoken to them several times over the course of the campaign. I don't know David Leavitt, but have tremendous respect for his brother Mike (current Secretary of HHS).

Change Congress

When I ran in my caucus meeting, I told the people there I'd base my vote for congressman on the basis of their support for Larry Lessig's Change Congress. I've had the opportunity to speak to both Chris and Jason about this and they were both supportive of two of the four pledges. Chris didn't think eliminating PAC money was practical, but was in favor of limiting all contributions to less than $300.

Why didn't I speak to David Leavitt about Change Congress? It's partly my fault: I went to only one event where he spoke. But it's partly his fault as well. He's been largely unavailable. Several attempts to get a message to him about Change Congress through his staff failed to elicit any response.

In fact, one of the things that's turned me off about Leavitt's campaign is that it's been much more impersonal than campaigns I'm used to. Lots of events to hear him speak and lots of literature, but not much personal contact. This morning for example, Chris and Jason were both at their booths (and I've got photos to prove it). Where was Leavitt? I don't know. I wandered around the entire center and didn't see him once.

I wasn't overly impressed with David Leavitt's speech. Some shouting at inopportune times. Jason gave a great speech, but his calling global warming a farce turned me off. Of course, I'm not sure Cannon or Leavitt feel much different. Both Cannon and Leavitt started their speeches with videos. Cannons was probably the best, but I liked that Chaffetz didn't have one. Cannon's speech was good: he talked about his background and how he got where he is.

Cannon is a supporter of eVerify, which I think is a big mistake. Of course, you can't find anyone who you agree with on everything--unless you're the candidate. That might not work either. I've known some candidates who I'm sure argued with themselves.

Time to vote!

I voted for Chris Cannon. I know some people will disagree with that vote so let me say why:

  • Chris was willing to support important aspects of the Change Congress pledges, including big support for transparency. He even took the time to meet personally with me on the pledge and talk about it.
  • Chris has been a good friend to technology. Many technologists in the state who I know and trust are firm supporters of Chris Cannon. I've talked to Chris several times about technology issues and he's well informed and thinks carefully about them.

Now we're listening to speeches for statewide office. The only interesting race is for Treasurer. Go figure.

Ballot boxes
Ballot boxes
(click to enlarge)

Gov. Huntsman spoke about his accomplishments. He made it clear he only intends to serve one more term (if he's elected, of course). Chuck Smith, running against Huntsman, gave a good speech and seems to have some good ideas, but he's not going to win. There's been no campaign to speak of.

Mark Walker is a former legislator with little experience in financial management. Richard Ellis is currently the Deputy Treasurer and a former directory of the Governors Office for Planning and Budget. But Ellis has been roundly criticized by the legislature and has little support there. I think it's more than Walker being "one of our own" with the legislature. I think Ellis has seriously made many of them mad with things he's said and done. Of course, I know how that feels. :-)

The Utah County Treasurer nominated Richard Ellis and said Ed Alter (current Treasurer had planned to do it, but was unavailable.) The nomination focused on Ellis' experience. Gordon Snow (Majority Whip) seconded the nomination. Ellis spoke about what he's done in the Treasurer's office: financial and technical innovation. Ellis gave a good speech.

Balloons waiting to fall above my head
Balloons waiting to fall above my head
(click to enlarge)

David Clark, Majority Leader, nominated Walker. He noted Walker's integrity. John Valentine (Senate President) seconded. Mark Shurtleff and Ron Bishop (1st District Congressman) also spoke for Walker. He emphasized more investment of public funds for larger returns. It's interesting that our conservative legislature supports a less conservative financial manager for treasurer. He emphasizes his private sector experience--although he doesn't get specific since he has no financial experience that I've heard about. He seems to be running largely on his Republican credentials.

Results: Merrill Cook, Bill Dew, and Brian Jenkins advanced to the run off ballot for District 2. In District three, David Leavitt received 220 votes, Jason Chaffetz received 469 votes, and Chris Cannon received 338 votes. They'll all go to the second ballot. The other two received almost no support, so unless people change their vote, I'd expect to see Jason and Chris go to a third ballot. We could be here all day...

The conventional wisdom is that a vote for Leavitt or Chaffetz is a vote against Cannon. But that's not the case. In fact, I saw Leavitt and Cannon talking in the hall and the word going around the floor is that Leavitt is asking his delegates to vote for Cannon. Of course, that won't keep the final outcome from going to a primary vote in June. In fact, it would take a huge swing either way to avoid that. Greg Curtis, Speaker of the House, predicted 55% Chaffetz, 45% Cannon. I think it might be closer than that.

I snagged a seat at the press table: power and a table to put my computer on. Sweet!

While we were waiting for the second ballot to be counted, Senators Hatch and Bennett spoke. Basically cheerleading for Republicans. That's OK--this is the right crowd for it to be sure. Hatch says: "I was a Mitt Romney supporter, but that's over. If you can't get behind McCain, you might as well turn the election over to Barack Obama. That would be a catastrophe for the judiciary." Hatch says McCain will appoint the right kind of judges and that alone is a good enough reason to support John McCain. Hatch gets a standing ovation. No doubt that the man is popular with this crowd.

Along with all of these are the usual controversies surrounding voting and credentialing procedures. Some older and disabled delegates had a tough time getting to the ballot boxes apparently.

A row of Macs at the press table
A row of Macs at the press table
(click to enlarge)

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and State Auditor Auston Johnson were elected by acclamation since they're running unopposed. We watched a McCain video. Mark Shurtleff spoke after showing us a video. I presume it's been prepared for the general election. Shurtleff gave a god talk and got a standing ovation. Balloons dropped. Basically anything to fill the time while they count votes.

The bags filled with balloons were hung above the press table, so they all fell on the floor around the press and not on the delegates.

Argh. Now we're doing party constitution changes. What fun. In the middle of the second amendment, someone went down and there was a call for a medic. There was a division called on the second amendment to replace winner take all with proportional representation in future presidential primaries. The amendment failed.

There will be a third ballot for the 2nd and 3rd Districts. In the 3rd District, Leavitt got 161 votes, Chaffetz got 529 votes, and Cannon got 356 votes in the second round. That gives Chaffetz over 50%, but he needs 60% to avoid a runoff. That's 630 votes it everyone stuck around and will vote on the third ballot. He needs 100 of Leavitt's votes to win outright.

People in Leavitt shirts are walking through the hall carrying Cannon signs. They're getting boo'd and the Rules Chairman is asking them to leave since campaigns are not allowed to campaign in the convention hall itself.

I'm going to go get ready to vote. They're not going to open the ballot boxes until we've heard the Bylaw changes because they're afraid people might leave. Ya think!?!

Jason Chaffetz running for Congress in the Third District
Jason Chaffetz running for Congress in the Third District
(click to enlarge)

The first bylaw amendment is to allow the delegates that are bound to Mitt Romney to vote for McCain. People cheered wildly after the speech against the change. People here still love Romney. Someone made a motion to postpone he amendment indefinitely. Everyone really just wants to vote and go home, I think.

In the end, for the 3rd District, Jason Chaffetz came within 9 votes of being the nominee and not having have a primary with Chris Cannon on June 24th. The final tally was Chaffetz 59%, Cannon 41%. What a finish. I'll bet there's some Chaffetz supporters who went home early and are kicking themselves right now.