When is a deal not a deal?
Wednesday night, Rep. Lynn Hemingway won the special election in HD40 over Amy Fowler by one vote.
Turns out the margin of victory for Hemingway came from an unlikely source. Chris Stout, a candidate who publicly threw his support behind Fowler after being ousted from the race in the first round, admitted he cast his ballot for Hemingway.
Stout, who was eliminated after the first round of voting, made a speech endorsing Fowler before the second and final round of balloting, then ended up voting for Hemingway.
In the first round of voting, Fowler got 26 votes to lead the way. The remaining 26 votes were split between Hemingway, Stout and Michael Shea. The final vote count was 26 votes for Hemingway and 25 for Fowler. One delegate that voted in the first round left before the second ballot. Had Stout voted for Fowler, she would have won.
Stout took to Facebook on Thursday afternoon to explain why he endorsed Fowler but voted for Hemingway.
Stout says his vote was the result of a promise made to Sen. Gene Davis.
“At Drinking Liberally last Friday, Sen. Davis asked me if I would commit my delegates to Lynn Hemingway. I told him that I would not, but that I would commit to Lynn in the second round if I were eliminated.”
Stout says he later cut a deal with Fowler that if one of them were eliminated in the first round, the other would commit their delegates to the remaining candidate. Stout says the math from the first round of voting (26 for Fowler, 13 for Hemingway, 9 for Stout and 4 for Shea) almost virtually assured a Fowler win in his mind. That didn’t happen.
During his speech endorsing Fowler, Stout told the assembled delegates she “was the right person to represent the district.” In an email exchange with UtahPolicy.com, Stout explained why he publicly backed Fowler but voted for Hemingway.
“I made the commitment to do that for Amy, and it was up to her to pull the delegates her way,” said Stout. “Apparently, she didn’t move the needle, and my endorsement meant nothing.”
That’s an understatement. Even though she had 50% of the delegates locked up after the first round, that wasn’t enough to ensure victory. Every single non-Fowler vote from the first ballot (minus the delegate who left) went to Hemingway to give him the improbable win.
Stout further elaborated on Facebook why he voted against Fowler, citing her inexperience.
“Personally, I didn’t think Amy was ready to step in and assume the role that we needed in District 40 and within the party, and it was an argument that I made to delegates. Yes, she’s a great candidate, and people like what she’s saying, and there’s no doubt that she would be a great voice in the legislature. But we do need to go beyond just being a voice, and I don’t believe that Amy is there — yet.”
But why make the deal, then? When asked why Stout did not tell Fowler that he had already committed his second round vote to Hemingway, he said he didn’t feel obligated to do so.
“Probably, for the same reasons that Amy didn’t disclose to me the number of delegates she actually had – not wanting to tip a hand,” he said. “The deal happened before delegates started arriving. I suspect that they already knew they had the numbers to win, but I don’t know that for certain.”
There is one more dynamic that has Fowler supporters up in arms. The delegate who left after the first ballot was a Fowler supporter. She had recently been injured in a car accident and headed home to rest, leaving instructions to call her if there was a second ballot. She did not make it back in time to vote before balloting closed. Fowler’s camp claims she was walking to the ballot box when it was removed. Others say she was not yet in the building when voting closed. Whatever happened, party officials clearly followed the rules which stipulated that after a one-minute warning “no additional ballots” would be cast. Had the missing delegate been able to vote, it would have resulted in a tie.
Amy Fowler declined to comment for this story.