One of the real stunning results out of Saturday’s dozens of county party political conventions was the stomping in House District 57 of former Rep. Holly Richardson.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, easily coasted to a 70 percent victory in a race that the so-called experts – including yours truly – believed would go to a primary election.
Richardson is a popular GOP activist who writes the Holly On The Hill political blog.
She let it be known last year that she planned to challenge Greene, an archconservative freshman, this year.
Richardson, a midwife by profession, started her blog several years ago, and immediately showed a flare for political writing.
When former Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, had to leave office in early 2011 (after he found out he had inadvertently moved out of his district), Richardson sought the interim appointment and the 2010 delegates picked her.
In late 2011 she resigned her seat – after making a relatively good showing in the 2011 Legislature – to manage the U.S. Senate campaign of former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
She and Liljenquist got into a primary in 2012 with long-time Sen. Orrin Hatch, but then lost badly.
Out of the Legislature – with Greene winning the newly-redrawn state House district in 2012 – Richardson still spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill in the 2013 and 2014 general sessions.
She often attended the open House GOP caucuses and was generally treated well by her former colleagues (who may have guessed that she would be joining them again after the 2014 elections.)
Richardson told UtahPolicy on Monday that she still doesn’t know what happened to her in the Utah County GOP convention.
But she was shocked by the outcome: Richardson only gathered 18 delegate votes out of 118 in the first round of voting and was knocked out of the three-way race.
Greene and John Stevens, a mortgage banker, then went to a second round of voting, where Greene eliminated Stevens by getting more than the 60 percent needed to win the nomination outright.
Even though there is a Democrat in the race, Utah County has not elected a Democratic House or Senate member in decades – Greene will return to the House next year unless something very unforeseen occurs.
Richardson says her poor performance could be the total of several factors:
-- She is a married woman who has raised, along with her husband, 22 children – most adopted.
She says there was the perception among some of the delegates that a wife and mother should be home with her family.
“That was there,” a tired and a bit emotional Richardson told UtahPolicy.
-- Several negative mailers went out early on in the House 60 GOP race. Richardson is quoted in other news stories that she didn’t believe the delegates would be swayed by them.
But now she believes she may have been wrong about that.
“Seventy-seven of the delegates were new – they had never been a county delegate before,” she said.
And perhaps they were more persuaded by negative mailers – having never seen them before – than they should have been, Richardson said Monday.
One negative mailer claimed that an Eastern conservative group endorsed Greene – when in fact the group never endorses candidates.
The person who mailed the piece even used the group’s copied letterhead.
The person who sent that mailer sent another letter that, no doubt poorly timed, hit delegate mailboxes Saturday afternoon – as the convention was winding down and votes in her district had already been taken.
“I haven’t seen that piece, but am told the writer said he shouldn’t have used the group’s letterhead, but otherwise the original letter was accurate – when in fact, of course, it wasn’t.”
Richardson said she was confident going into Saturday’s convention that she would end up in a primary – either with Greene or Stevens, who had run for the seat before.
“I offered a clear alternative, but most of the delegates didn’t see a need for a change” from Greene, she said.
For the most part, she said, the 118 delegates were smart and dedicated – and voted the way they believed.
“It just wasn’t for me,” she joked.
While still liking the caucus/delegate/convention system, Richardson said she sees in her results what some pro-Count My Vote supporters dislike in the old caucus system.
“It is much easier to sway 100 people (delegates)” than it is to sway 1,000 or 10,000 primary voters, she said.
“These two mailers sent out against” her and Stevens “probably cost less than $100.”
So it is cheap to run an anonymous negative campaign in the caucus/delegate/system.
And there can be real impacts in such negative campaigning.
“But SB54 is the law; and things will change” in the 2016 election, she said.
Richardson refers to SB54, a bill in the 2014 Legislature that was a compromise with the Count My Vote citizen initiative.
Richardson said in her campaign debates that she would have voted against SB54 – as Greene did.
Still, she now believes we’ve seen the end of the traditional caucus/delegate/convention process – even though it will be an option come 2016.
“I think you’ll see all the legislative candidates going the dual route – why not?”
SB54 allows candidates to gather a set number of signatures (2,000 in a Senate district, 1,000 in a House district) from registered voters and go directly to the primary ballot.
Or candidates can just file and go through the caucus/delegate/convention votes as in the past.
Or candidates can do both – qualify for the primary ballot via voter signatures and still appear before convention delegates.
In the later option, even if a candidate didn’t get 40 percent of the convention delegate vote he wouldn’t be eliminated, but go to the primary.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to the direct primary and the caucus system,” said Richardson.
She had a fair shot at convincing her House delegates to vote for her – and she doesn’t understand such a poor showing, she said.
“I just don’t know what happened. But there was a clear shift (away from her) in the final couple of days” before Saturday’s convention, she said.
Just under one-third of her 118 delegates were women, said Richardson – and she believed she would do well with them.
But a number of those women delegates had husbands who also were delegates.
And historically the GOP delegate pool across the state have been 75 percent men – with some GOP female candidates believing they were not being treated on equal footing with male candidates.
A number of the 118 delegates were also young, said Richardson. And she believed she would do well with them, as well.
“I was told” during her campaign “that I was too outspoken. Well, that’s not going to change.”
Richardson said she will continue to blog on politics and look for other ways to serve her community.
“Right now I would say not run gain. But given some time, who knows.”