Bob Bernick’s notebook: Republicans have lost. Utahns want to keep the signature path to the ballot

The newly-elected chairman of the Utah Republican Party, Rob Anderson, would be wise to push his Central Committee to end, once and for all, the foolish and divisive battle against SB54 and its dual-path for a candidate to a party’s primary ballot.

Folks, the Utah Republican Party is in a real financial and political mess.

Only half of its 4,000 state delegates bother to show up at last Saturday’s state convention – a convention that saw the then-chairman James Evans and its then vice-chairman Phil Wright (both vehemently anti-SB54) voted out of office and Anderson winning in what many believed to be an upset.

The party is $450,000 in debt. It can’t pay its bills. It is broke, with no paid staff, lucky to keep the lights on.

Unfortunately, this week Anderson told the Deseret News that for now, at least, he will continue the appeal of SB54 before the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

And he will try to work out a “compromise” with GOP legislators and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to do away with SB54’s dual-path law.

Rob: That would be going AGAINST not only what most Utahns want, but what most Republican Utahns want.

Get your act together, Anderson.

Face some political facts:

— A new UtahPolicy poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds that 70 percent of Utahns want to keep SB54 and the candidate signature-gathering route to a party’s primary.

— 67 percent (more than two-thirds) of Republicans want to keep the dual-path law.

— Even 60 percent of those who said they are “very conservative” politically – the life-blood of the ailing Utah Republican Party – want to keep the signature-gathering route.

What is wrong with you people?

You, the elected Republicans in the party and in the Utah Legislature?

You have lost, lost, lost the public’s support for your antiquated and unfair neighborhood caucus/delegate/convention process.

Utahns are not stupid.

Republican Utahns are not stupid.

They understand this issue very well.

They want to pick their OWN party nominees in a party primary election – paid for and run by the state, to ensure fairness.

The GOP Utah hierarchy has already closed the primaries – you have to be a registered Republican to vote in them.

In his latest survey for UtahPolicy, Jones also asked respondents if they are a current party delegate.

Thirty-six said they are currently a state or county GOP delegate. And even among the delegates themselves, 66 percent said we should keep the SB54 dual-path process – which actually SAVES the delegate/convention process, for those who choose it, while allowing candidates to choose the voter signature-gathering route, as well.

Now, I realize that 36 folks out of the sample of 603 adults is not a viable statistical number.

But even Anderson, House Speaker Greg Hughes and other Utah House and Senate diehards need to get this through their heads:

— The debate over SB54 and the dual-path route is over. It is OVER.

Utahns want to be able to decide for themselves who their party nominees are. Period.

Yes, there can still be debate on the “plurality” issue – what to do if on a ballot with three or more party candidates one doesn’t get 50 percent plus one.

There was a bill in the 2017 Legislature dealing with that. But, again, stupid party politics got involved and it didn’t pass.

If two or more GOP signature-gathering candidates get on the Aug. 15 special primary election in the upcoming 3rd U.S. House District race, then we could have a GOP nominee coming out with less than 50 percent of the vote.

But that is not the end of the political world.

In the last 25 years we have twice elected Republican governors in Utah who got less than 50 percent of the vote.

And they were much loved during their tenures and did fine jobs for the state.

Anderson, Hughes and other anti-SB54 zealots: Look at these new Jones’ poll numbers – which have been reflected in poll after poll after poll:

— Utahns want to keep the SB54 signature-gathering route to the party primary, 70-19 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

— Republicans want to keep the current law, 67-20 percent, with 13 percent undecided.

— Democrats want to keep SB54 intact, 71-19 percent, with 10 percent undecided.

— Political independents want to keep it, 75-15 percent, with 10 undecided.

— “Very conservatives” favor it, 60-29 percent.

— “Somewhat conservatives” like the system used in the 2016 elections, 70-18 percent.

— Those who said they are “moderates” politically want it, 78-13 percent.

— “Somewhat liberals” are in favor, 73-18 percent.

— And the “very liberals,” 67-14 percent.

These are not even close. They are super-majorities.

If a sitting major officeholder had favorability ratings like these numbers, they would be among the most beloved elected officials of all time in Utah.

And yet you still stand against SB54?

You cannot do so – YOU CANNOT DO SO – and claim any validity in representing your constituents on this matter.

Put your partisan, fearful prejudices aside.

Do what is right for all Utahns.

Do what is right for your own party voters.

Get over SB54 and work for a better primary voting process open to all party members and candidates.