A majority of Utahns say the state Republican Party should not endorse candidates before the party primary election determines its nominees, a new UtahPolicy.com poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds.
However, when Jones asked only Republicans should their state party endorse pre-primary, the results are mixed.
And that opens the door, at least, for the party’s 180-member Central Committee to take further action against GOP candidates who take only the SB54 signature-gathering route to the party primary.
Or candidates who take both the signature and delegate/convention route, but who fail to get enough delegate votes to make it out of the state Republican Convention.
Jones finds among all Utahns, 51 percent say the state GOP should stay neutral in any party primary race and not endorse any candidate or candidates.
A third (33 percent) say the party should endorse in a primary race, and 16 percent don’t know.
But when Jones broke out only those who self-identified themselves as Republicans, there is less certainty:
45 percent of Utah Republicans say their party should not endorse in the primary, but stay neutral.
But 41 percent would like their party to endorse a candidate in the primary election, and 16 percent of Republicans don’t know.
Newly-elected state GOP chairman Rob Anderson says he DOES NOT want his party endorsing before the party primary.
But that decision will ultimately be up to the party’s Central Committee, and perhaps later a vote by the 4,000-plus state GOP delegates in some future convention.
As it stands now in the special 3rd Congressional District primary election on Aug. 15, the state GOP will not be endorsing any of the three Republican candidates on the closed primary ballot.
If there were such an internal party rule on pre-primary endorsements, almost certainly the bylaw would say only candidate(s) who came out of the delegate convention would be the official GOP candidate in the primary.
At least three GOP county parties have that endorsement rule in their bylaws.
And in this special election, that would be former state Rep. Chris Herrod. For Herrod beat half a dozen other candidates in the special 3rd District delegate vote a month ago.
However, newcomer Tanner Ainge gets on the Aug. 15 GOP ballot by collecting more than 7,000 Republican voter signatures – following SB54’s lead.
And Provo Mayor John Curtis gets on the Aug. 15 GOP ballot by also getting 7,000 GOP signatures.
Curtis took the dual path route. And he appeared before the June GOP 3rd District delegates AND gathered signatures.
However, Curtis lost in the fourth round of voting. Under the old, pre-SB54 process, Curtis would have been eliminated from the Aug. 15 ballot.
And, of course, Ainge would have had no way to the ballot without SB54, because he didn’t even appear at the convention.
At the spring GOP convention, the delegates changed the special U.S. House nomination rules. And instead of allowing the final two candidates to advance from the convention (if no one got 60 percent plus one of the vote), only one candidate would come out – the one who got more than half the delegate vote in the final round of voting.
Anticipating former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ resignation from the U.S. House – and the fact that one or more signature-gathering candidates would be on the GOP primary ballot to replace Chaffetz – the party bosses didn’t want to advance two convention candidates to an already crowded primary – where the final nominee could end up winning with 30 percent of the vote, or even less.
What are the chances that the GOP state Central Committee would break from tradition and endorse a convention-approved candidate before the party primary?
Well, Jones finds that among those who self-identified as “very conservative” politically, 48 percent said they want the state GOP to endorse a candidate(s) before the party primary election.
Only 38 percent of the “very conservative” respondents said they didn’t want the state Republican Party to endorse any primary candidates, and to stay neutral instead.
Historically speaking, delegates to the state convention are more conservative – more right wing – than are rank-and-file GOP voters in Utah.
So if the Central Committee – who are elected by the state delegates – end up being such arch-conservatives, then there is the possibility that in some future election the state party will change their internal rules to endorse a convention-approved candidate.
That could lead to a confusing, even odd, primary GOP battle, where one or more convention candidates are endorsed and helped by the party state organization, and signature-approved candidates are actually opposed by their own party apparatus.
Jones finds that Democrats and political independents oppose the state GOP endorsing before the primary, 58-25 percent, and 58-25 percent, respectively. (Yes, by the same percentages.)
Jones also finds that most of those who classified themselves as “somewhat conservative,” “moderate,” “somewhat liberal,” and “very liberal,” all oppose the state GOP endorsing candidates before the primary election.
Jones polled 607 adults from May 31-June 5. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.