Lessons Learned from the 2016 Primary Elections

Voter StickersNow that the 2016 primary elections are (mostly) over, what lessons should we take away from the results?

Our “Political Insiders” and readers offered up their takeaway from primary election day.
As always, comments are published anonymously.
“Delegates doth protest too much, and don’t vote their neighbors will.”
“The silent majority within the Republican party now has a vote.”
“Regardless of how the various pundits are Monday-morning-quarterbacking the results, especially regarding legislative races, the fact that Gov Herbert totally slaughtered Johnson is the big takeaway. Many Republican and Democrat delegates are out of touch with mainstream voters. SB54 and more candidates on the ballot will continue.”
“Money wins.”
“Using the Governor’s primary election as an example, it is evident that the caucus system does not reflect the voice of the people.”
“Count My Vote is still a major contentious issue and powerhouse issue within the GOP. Within the Democratic Party, the norms are changing for the better so that even a transgender candidate can win. Probably won’t happen anytime soon with the GOP.”
“That Gary Herbert is made out of Teflon.”
“Utah Dems don’t care about winning as much as they do about ideological purity and the Utah GOP is going to have to give up the caucus/convention system in all but symbolism.”
“If you are going to go after the king, actually go after him. Unless, of course, the campaign was not to unseat Herbert but to set up a Senate campaign.”
“We should learn that the delegate/convention system is not reflective of the will of the electorate but definitely reflects the conservative extreme of the Utah GOP. We should learn that Democrats who run on a conservative platform do not represent the values of the party members. Finally, we should learn that neither the Utah GOP leadership nor the Utah Democrats leadership are in touch with the people who make up their respective parties. The Utah GOP is primarily concerned about its brand and ideology. The Utah Democrats appear to want to please the DNC more than retain their new members.”
“If you’re an incumbent, the press can’t force you to debate and, in fact, it will praise you as a shrewd political tactician for not debating.”
  1. “The vote by mail campaign started by Chairs Jim Dabakis and Thomas Wright several years ago have done more to improve voter turnout in Utah than any other effort to date. Vote by mail needs to be improved and expanded.
  2. Incumbents are nearly impossible to beat in Utah. Once someone is elected they can sit on that seat for a long time. This creates two problems — first, when those elected have never had a better paying job they won’t leave regardless of whether they are getting anything done, and, two, the most qualified people to hold office won’t run because they have to beat career politicians who’ve been in several elected offices and have made a career out of public service. The same people who created the problems will never solve them.
  3. Social media is an echo chamber in Utah politics. Those who are spending a lot of time and money there are wasting it.
  4. Negative campaigning in Utah isn’t effective. People don’t respond to negative messages about other people.
  5. More candidates will bypass the convention. CMV may not have produced much by way of candidates this cycle but with the higher primary turnout you’ll see more people go straight to the primary and skip the caucus/convention stuff.
  6. SB 54 has created a challenge that is being ignored — plurality. Unless corrected, Utah will get its own “Governor Ventura” when a candidate wins with significantly less than 50 percent of the primary vote. I predict the Governor’s race in 2020 to be so loaded with quality candidates the best candidates may dilute each other so much that an inferior candidate wins the GOP nomination with around 25-30 percent of the vote. Neither the Utah GOP or CMV is doing enough to address this unintended consequence of their actions and the voters of this state will eventually pay for it.”
“The press is lazy.”
“Johnson should have focussed on tax increases and trustworthiness. Not SAGE testing.”
“Utah Republican Party elites who show up at the convention are completely out of step with the vast majority of Republican voters in our state. We should reflect the will of the people and pass a constitutional amendment to do away with party conventions completely and just go to a straight primary for every statewide race.”
“Vote by mail seems to work for boosting turnout. Utahns defer to authority and favor name recognition unless an incumbent has committed serious mistakes. A strong economy does not foster voter discontent.”
“Negative campaigning against Governor Herbert doesn’t work. Didn’t Dave Hansen learn anything from Peter Corroon’s campaign? The voters of Utah don’t appreciate “comparison” flyers where one candidate’s face is distorted.”
“We didn’t learn anything new. Republican delegates tend to be more conservative than the majority of Republican voters. The same can be said about Democrat delegates being more liberal than the majority of Democratic voters — except for the election of Misty Snow as the Democratic nominee. Maybe the Democrats knew they didn’t have a candidate that could beat Sen. Mike Lee, so they decided to send a message about how open-minded they are by electing Ms. Snow. Nonetheless, all of the good in-roads the LDS Democrats have been making into the Democratic Party, have now gone for naught — sending these conservative Democrats back to the Republicans. Neither party has learned from the past.”
“I think the lesson learned from these primaries and conventions is that incumbents tend to win, especially in legislative races. Not one Democratic challenger defeated an incumbent this year, and less than a handful of Republican challengers defeated their incumbents. Additionally, it seems that Democrats tend to retire en mass one election cycle, and Republicans the next. 12-13 legislative Republicans retired or were defeated this year, while at least a few Democrats retired in previous years.”
“There is a struggle for the soul of the Republican party and no matter who wins Utahn’s will be unhappy. Republicans in Utah just want to be told that everything is great and patted on the head. On the Democratic side, we see them losing grasp of reality even faster than the Republicans. Misty Snow is a perfect example and shows that the Democrats are not serious about winning any elections. For the foreseeable future, Utah Democrats will be happy sucking crumbs off of the ground and trading a seat or two every other election cycle with the GOP. Frankly, I am sickened and disgusted with both of the major parties. The lessons we really learned is that neither party wants change, and they are both happy in their current positions.”
  1. “Utah voters do not necessarily depend on their party apparatus to do their thinking for them in both parties.
  2. Most Utah voters favor the Count My Vote agreement, and if Republicans keep trying to void it, they will only hurt themselves.
  3. Most voters are closer to the center than either party’s delegates; Republicans in particular found out that Republican voters are much closer to the center than convention delegates.”
“Delegates at party conventions do not have the same priorities as the voting population. Look no further than the race between Herbert and Johnson.”
“The direction of public education is an intensely political endeavor, and there’s no way to avoid that. Witness the tremendous organization by the UEA and those opposed to the Common Core and SAGE.”
“James Evans’ crusade to emasculate SB 54 is a fool’s errand reminiscent of Don Quixote. It’s time to stop tilting at windmills and get back to healing the fractured Utah GOP.”
“First and foremost we see that Democrats in Utah quite extreme. First, they caucus for Bernie, and now they nominate Misty Snow for the U.S. Senate…and they say Republicans are extreme?”
“The Libertarian message works with the GOP conventions folks, but not with the general public.”
“It does not pay to go negative in a campaign. It is much better to stay positive. Those candidates that go negative even if they win the election end up losing respect and dignity.”
“No one has ever been more grossly ‘misunderestimated’ in Utah politics than Gary Herbert. The affection and trust from Utah voters for the state’s chief executive is palpable. The scorched earth tactics employed by his past opponents will prove so distasteful to Utahns that none will win elected office again, their political ambitions consumed by flames of their own kindling.”