If one looks at the raw numbers, in 2016, a year of a highly visible battle in that June’s GOP governor’s primary, 246,529 Utahns voted in a race that saw Gov. Gary Herbert win big.
Jump ahead to June this year, and 527,172 Utahns voted in the GOP primary, which, again, saw a very visible battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, ultimately won by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox with 36 percent of the vote in a four-person race.
So, compare the two highly visible primaries — 2016 to 2020 — and 280,643 MORE Republicans voted this year than four years ago.
That’s a lot of “new” GOP voters, isn’t it?
So — considering that there was a concerted effort by former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman to get independents, if not even Democrats, to register as Republicans and vote for him this year — would GOP state chairman Derek Brown and other party leaders try to keep those “new” Republican voters in the party? The answer — slightly modified by Brown’s own counts of “new” Republicans — is yes, the chairman says.
Brown believes, and has data to back it up, that there really were not that many “new” GOP voters who moved over into last June’s closed primary just because a candidate asked them to.
“Any particular candidate’s (influence) was small,” says Brown, in getting independents or Democrats to come into the June 2020 primary. (You have to be a registered Republican to get a GOP primary ballot.)
In other words, the 280,000 plus voters who didn’t cast ballots in the 2016 GOP primary, but did in 2020, were already Republicans and/or were independents who normally vote Republican in the general election, even if they miss some primary elections.
Brown says that in reality this past June there were around 40,000 really “new” Republicans voting — folks who turned 18, and could now vote, since 2016 or are Republicans who moved into Utah over the last four years, and so could vote in the June 2020 primary for the first time.
And, yes, says Brown, the state Republican Party and the 29 different county Republican parties will try to contact those new GOP voters and get them involved in the party, support Republican candidates this November.
“We are going to focus on them,” said Brown, a former Utah House member who has revitalized the state party, both through fundraising and organizationally. Because he believes, statistically speaking, that there are not that many “new” Republican primary voters who are liberal independents or even Democrats, Brown says the state GOP will reach out to all the new voters who came into the June primary.
After all, liberal independents or Democrats likely won’t give the Republican Party money, even if the party asks them to. And they may not be inclined to vote in November for a Republican candidate, even if asked to do so.
But maybe they will.
In any case, the new Republican voters who have moved into the state, or come of voting age since 2016, should be welcomed into Utah’s majority political party, invited to become involved in party-building efforts and turned out to vote in November.
“We are going to reach out to all of them,” said Brown, “take all of them in” to what he hopes will be an even larger Utah Republican Party.