Utah GOP Polling Members on SB54 Opposition

Faced with a lot of questions – and more than a little negative reaction – state Republican Party officials are taking a breather, and conducting a large email poll of their officeholders, delegates and rank-and-file party members over how to proceed on SB54, UtahPolicy was told Thursday.

GOP state chairman James Evans – slammed in the media over his proposal to interview some GOP candidates in 2016 to see their views on the party platform and principles – told UtahPolicy that on Tuesday an extensive email poll was sent to GOP elected officials.

The same email was sent out to the 4,000 state delegates on Wednesday.

And on Thursday that poll is being sent to 60,000 registered Republicans who happen to include their email addresses on caucus night registration forms.

Evans told UtahPolicy that the poll is an attempt to inform and get feedback on how the party should deal with SB54 – the 2014 legal compromise with the Count My Vote citizen petition initiative that aimed to set aside the parties’ caucus/convention candidate vetting process and go to a candidate petition gathering system to get on a party’s primary ballot.

Under the Qualified Political Party option in SB54 there are two routes to a primary, the traditional caucus/delegate/convention process and a candidate petition gathering process – where a candidate can bypass the delegates and get on the primary ballot by gathering a set number of voter signatures in his district.

You can read the James’ email below.

“This is an attempt to see where the party wants to go,” said Evans.

Perhaps as a response to the negative reaction to Evans’ early statements about interviewing GOP candidates, Evans said that the interview process is done today in the Utah County GOP.

“It actually was their original idea,” said Evans – although in introducing the interview idea several weeks ago Evans said it came from a federal judge in oral arguments over the state GOP’s lawsuit against SB54 – as a means to use party membership to ensure a fair vetting of all GOP candidates in light of SB54.

In any case, Evans says the email poll will be used to sample active Utah Republicans.

“It is a comprehensive poll,” one not biased toward any idea or approach.

But already Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Bountiful, an early critic of Evan’s candidate interview panel, has been calling the survey online a “push poll” – leading respondents to pre-conceived results.

Evans denies this.

“You can’t have a push poll of 60,000 people,” said Evans. “We’re just trying to get a feel of where” Utah active Republicans want to go in reaction to SB54.

Admittedly SB54 can be complicated in its approach to candidates getting on a party’s primary ballot – which is controlled by, and paid for, by the state to the tune of $3 million every election cycle.

You can read the bill here.

The Utah Elections Office has a fine SB54 summary here.

Evan’s email poll asks some critical questions of active Utah Republicans, like whether the party should become a Qualified Political Party (and keep the caucus/convention candidate option), or whether it should become a Registered Political Party (the only candidate option is to go the candidate petition gathering route).

(Interesting, there is no listed option of doing nothing – which Evans has worried about publically before – which would mean come 2016 GOP candidates and officeholders would NOT be listed as Republicans on primary or general election ballots.)

Among the GOP questionnaire inquires:

  • Should the party continue its federal lawsuit against SB54?
  • Should candidates be asked to meet with GOP officials to run as a Republican?
  • Should only candidates who go through the caucus/convention process get state party resources and funds?
  • Should candidates who go through BOTH the caucus/convention and petition route get party resources and funds
  • Should the party endorse candidates in a primary (historically it is against party rules for party officials to take any stand before the nominee is chosen)?
  • Should the party only endorse in the general election a GOP candidate who goes through the caucus/convention system?
  • Should the party’s caucus/convention nomination delegate vote be lowered from the current 40 percent?
  • If so, what should that nomination threshold be – 35 percent, 30 percent, 25 percent and so on? Lowering the threshold would mean more races would see the top two convention vote-getters advancing to the party primary.
  • Finally, should some or all GOP candidates be required to pay the party for some of the SB54 costs?

Evans said he didn't think Utah Republicans will go for the last SB54 question.

Evans got a lot of grief for suggesting several weeks ago that petition-route candidates pay the party upwards of $10,000 each – the cost of running a party committee interview process and informing GOP voters about candidates who either refused to be interviewed and/or had differences with the party platform and principles.

Evans said he presented the questionnaire to Washington County GOP delegates in their convention over last weekend.

“They were excited to see it” and to participate in the upcoming polling statewide, he said.

All Evans ever wanted, he said, was to get GOP rank-and-file and delegates involved in the important decision-making process that SB54 requires.

But it also must be said that after UtahPolicy first reported on Evans’ GOP committee interview process for Republican candidates, the chairman has been severely criticized from a number of quarters.

It even has gotten to the point where some GOP insiders/officeholders were actively recruiting to find someone to run against Evans in his chairmanship re-election, which will be part of the Aug. 15 state GOP delegate convention.

Evans said the email poll results would be presented to a GOP Central Committee meeting on May 30th.

“We all need to know where we are going” before the Aug. 15 state convention, he added.


Utah GOP Survey on SB 54