No rest for the wicked – the Legislature ended just last Thursday night, but now come the neighborhood party caucuses where county and state delegates are picked to the April nominating conventions where candidates will be voted upon.
In an unusual move, state Democratic and Republican party leaders chose not to have their caucuses on the same night this year.
The state Democratic caucuses are Tuesday. The Republicans on Thursday.
Matt Lyon, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, tells UtahPolicy that the state site is easier to use, one just types in their home address and the place of the Democratic caucus pops up.
“We are an open and transparent party,” says Lyon. “Anyone and everyone is invited” for the Tuesday night meetings, which will start at 7 p.m. and likely last between 90 minutes and two hours.
One does not have to be a registered Democrat to vote in the caucus; just be 18 years old by the Nov. 6 final election.
Democrats, independents and even registered Republicans are invited, said Lyon.
However, it is state law that a person can’t vote twice in any party primaries.
And since Tuesday night Democrats are holding an official presidential preference vote (similar to a primary), one couldn’t attend Tuesday night and vote for President Barack Obama and then register as a Republican and vote in the June GOP presidential primary election, Lyon said.
To vote for Obama (or any other person) in the Tuesday night caucus meeting, an attendee must sign a pledge not to vote in the June GOP presidential primary, said Lyon.
Since Democrats have the incumbent president, it didn’t make sense to hold a separate June primary election, said Lyon.
Obama will, of course, win the Democratic preference vote Tuesday.
But each caucus will also elect delegates to the county and state Democratic conventions.
Those delegates will vote on candidates for partisan offices this year – like county commission, county council, state House and Senate, gubernatorial, attorney general, auditor and treasurer, and for the U.S. House and Senate.
In addition, in the April 20-21 state Democratic convention in the Salt Palace, Democratic state delegates will pick the slate of 34 national delegates who will attend the DNC’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September.
There, Obama will formally be nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
Lyon says state party leaders have prepared 20,000 caucus attendee packets, and so hope that many will attend Tuesday.
Across the state Democrats will meet in 144 locations.
In a big county like Salt Lake, there will be 41 different caucus locations.
In a small county like Wayne, there will be only one meeting.
“The caucus meetings are set up by the local county (Democratic) parties,” said Lyon.
So it is really up to local party leaders to decide how many caucus meetings to hold.
For more than a decade the Utah Democratic Party has held their March caucus meetings in public buildings, not in private homes.
“Most sites will be a school, or a library, or a rec center, something like that,” said Lyon.
There will be some sadness in the Tuesday night meetings, as many of the organizers and attendees will be remembering long-time state Democratic Party leader Todd Taylor, who died a week ago.
Taylor, 46, was the longest serving state executive director in the nation when he stepped down from that post last year to take on the new assignment of chief party strategist.
Taylor was a walking historian/campaign strategist.
And when UtahPolicy asked some questions about the history of Democratic Party caucuses – attendance and so forth -- Lyon just said sadly, “I don’t know, Todd would have known that.”
Lyon said that like so many young Utah Democrats, Taylor was a mentor and giant figure for Lyon.
“He was our person to go to for legal questions, campaign finance and strategy, he’d put together our priorities. He
taught me so much.”
Taylor’s death, in his sleep from natural causes, is a great blow to the Utah Democratic Party, said Lyon. “And it is a great personal loss for me, too.”