Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Time to end the fight over SB54

Bob BernickWill this be the last SB54/Count My Vote column I ever write?

Ohhh, if only that could be true.

But at least this may be one of the last such columns – which will join dozens of others over the last three years.

As readers of UtahPolicy may well know, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, this session has a bill, SB114, whose goal it is to put to rest, at least it is hoped so, the whole CMV/SB54 controversy.

SB114 sets up a runoff primary election – all by mail – should the late-June primary not provide a clear winner.

Under SB54, a candidate may get on his party’s primary ballot by collecting a set number of voter signatures. There is no limit to how many candidates can do this, so there is no limit – other than the difficulty of gathering so many signatures – to how many candidates could be on a party’s ballot.

Therein lies the state Republican Party’s complaint – among so many others on SB54 – that a primary “winner” could have fewer than 50 percent of the vote.

SB114 says if there are four or more primary candidates, and no one gets more than 35 percent of the vote, then there is a runoff primary among the two top primary vote-getters – held in mid-August.

Rare will be the time such a runoff is needed – maybe not in our lifetimes.

But Saturday the state GOP’s governing Central Committee will vote on whether to accept SB114 and, thus, end its appeal to the Federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals over SB54.

The Central Committee would be smart to take it and end this partisan, bitter battle within the Utah Republican Party.

While state chairman James Evans maintains he can raise what monies are needed, it is also clear that many big-hitter Republicans are no longer writing checks to support the party – because they support SB54, if not the original Count My Vote citizen initiative petition of 2014.

So, various businesses are owed money by the state party, and some are even thinking of suing the party for being a financial deadbeat.

All in all a bad situation.

Now, some archconservative/delegates will never be happy with SB54 – even though the fact is Bramble and his Republican colleagues saved the caucus/convention/delegate system in the compromise.

You may recall the original CMV petition would have taken ALL candidates out of party delegate conventions; with the only way to get the party primary ballot via signature petitions.

Under SB54 a candidate can also go to the convention, or take both the petition and convention route at the same time.

And as I’ve written before, it is time the Republican delegates/archconservatives realize that they have WON this political fight.

That’s because in the future – and as seen in the 2016 elections – while some candidates may gather signatures, most will also take the convention/delegate route.

Why?

Because the candidates don’t want their own county and/or state parties to officially oppose them in the primary election.

And that could happen – actually did in 2016 – if the candidate either didn’t go to the convention or went but failed to get the 40 percent delegate vote required to make it out of the convention and on to the primary ballot.

The political reality is, most or all GOP candidates in the future will choose to go the delegate route and work to get at least 40 percent of the vote.

And by doing that, they will put themselves in the camp of the more conservative delegates – and thus likely reflect those conservative values in their actions in their offices – whether as governor, U.S. congressman, state legislator or county councilman.

The delegates’ influence, maybe not quite as strong as before CMV and SB54, will still be there.

Remember, it would have been completely gone under the CMV petition, which polls showed was very popular among the citizens who would have voted on it in November 2014.

The CMV folks raised more than $1 million for their petition and had 120,000 signatures in hand when the shelved their effort in the SB54 compromise three years ago.

So, what could be gained by continuing the CMV/SB54 fight?

End it with the passage of SB114.

End it with the state Republican Party’s acceptance of the plurality solution presented by Bramble this session.

End all of it.

And let’s get back to Utah being one big happy family of mostly-Republicans, with Republicans running the state government and most of the local governments.

In other words, back to being Utah again.