Political Intrigue, Big Turnout Expected at Saturday’s Salt Lake County Democratic Convention

democrat1Saturday’s Salt Lake County Democratic Convention could be one of the biggest in recent memory.

Chairwoman Claire Collard says they’re hoping the phenomenal turnout for the Democratic caucuses will carry over to their event at Cyprus High School.
“We normally have about 1,200 attendees for the convention. This year we’re expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500,” says “We’re encouraging everyone to come to the convention and be involved.”
One of the big draws is the unusual number of contested legislative races:
  • District 24 – Rebecca Chavez-Houck vs. Darin Mann
  • District 32 – Suzane Harrison vs. Mark Hammond for the right to face Republican LaVar Christensen
  • District 37 – Carol Spackman Moss vs. Aubrey Lucas
  • District 40 – Lynn Hemingway vs. Alexis Hall
  • District 43 – Scott Thorell vs. Edgar Harwood for the right to face Republican Earl Tanner.
  • District 44 – Christine Passey vs. John Jackson for the right to face Republican Bruce Cutler or Shala Weaver.
  • District 47 – Alena Balmforth vs. John Rendell for the opportunity to face Republican Ken Ivory or Stacy Norton.
  • House 49 – Zach Robinson vs. Louise Edington for the chance to face Republican Robert Spendlove.
Adding intrigue to the contested races is many of the candidates are tapping into the unprecedented wave of caucus attendees who came out to vote for Bernie Sanders. That certainly puts some incumbents like Chavez-Houck, Moss, and Hemingway in danger of losing their seats.
Chavez-Houck is the only Democratic candidate in a contested race at the convention who opted to use the signature-gathering rout. However, those signatures were due a week ago, and Chavez-Houck only had 406 of the 1,000 signatures she needed to ensure her place on the primary ballot. Chavez-Houck says she submitted well over 1,000 signatures but is still trying to determine if enough will be certified to avoid elimination at the convention.
In all of the other races, if a candidate gets 60% support from delegates, they win the nomination outright. However, in a rule adopted by the county party in 2012, if a candidate in a contested race gets at least 57% support, but not 60%, there is another round of voting where the leading candidate gets a second chance to win the nomination. That rule allowed Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams to avoid a primary election against Ross Romero in 2012 by breaking the 60% barrier in the second round as he got just over 58% of the delegate vote the first time around.
Collard says she’s hoping all of the energy that overwhelmed the caucuses in March will translate to electoral success this November.
“What happened at the caucus was phenomenal. We were prepared for 15-20,000 people. We had no way of knowing we’d hit 45,000 in Salt Lake County. That’s incredibly exciting for us. Now we need to get those people involved and turn this very red state to purple.”