Gov. Gary Herbert may have wanted to give all candidates a fair shot at being their party’s 3rd District nominee by ordering up a truncated signature-gathering process.
But the reality is different, several folks who gather signatures for candidates professionally tell UtahPolicy.
These folks say it will cost between $90,000 and $100,000 to get the 7,000 voter signatures needed by June 12 at noon.
So whether you have access to that amount of campaign cash may well determine whether you take the signature route, or the delegate convention route, or both, in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who will resign his post on June 30.
That is well above what it costs in a normal general election year, which is around $40,000 or less, UtahPolicy is told.
That’s because the timeframe of this special election is so much shorter than in a general election.
For example, in a normal year, a signature-gathering candidate has more than 50 days to get his or her SB54-required number of voter signatures.
But if special election 3rd District candidates started last Friday – the opening day of candidate filing – they had just three weeks to get the job done. And the clock is ticking.
There is a science to signature gathering in Utah – but it’s not rocket science.
“You basically have to go door to door,” ringing bells to get a registered Republican or a registered Democrat to sign your candidate petition, one professional told UtahPolicy on Tuesday.
State law (made tougher by delegate-convention-loving GOP lawmakers) says you can only pay for a certified signature.
That means anyone who signs your petition, but it turns out for whatever reason they are unqualified to do so, you can’t collect on.
This requirement is meant to stop or curtail, false signatures – since the person being paid to get that signature doesn’t get paid if the person isn’t qualified.
GOP candidates have to get 7,000 signatures from registered Republican voters living inside of the 3rd District.
Democrats have to get 7,000 signatures from registered Democrats.
So far, only Tanner Ainge has signed up to take ONLY the signature-gathering route on the Republican side of the ledger.
The other GOP candidates are taking both routes at the same time, or taking only the delegate convention route to the Aug. 15 primary.
GOP 3rd District delegates – about 1,000 of them – will meet at Timpview High School June 17 to vote on convention candidates. Under a special rule adopted by all state delegates in convention last Saturday, only one candidate will emerge June 17.
And he or she will be in an Aug. 15 Republican primary only if someone qualifies for that ballot via signature gathering.
Ainge may turn out to be a poster-boy for the anti-SB54 GOP crowd – for he has both the name recognition and, likely, the financial means to take a successful signature-only route to the GOP primary.
His father is former BYU basketball and NBA star Danny Ainge, who now is an executive for the Boston Celtics.
In any case, UtahPolicy is told by several folks in the signature-gathering business that it will be tough to make the June 12 deadline with 7,000 valid signatures.
And it is not just that noon deadline.
State law says a registered voter can only sign one candidate’s petition.
Remember, the various signature-gathering firms all have the same public lists of registered Republicans in the 3rd District.
So not only do you need to get 7,000 qualifying signatures by June 12 at noon, you want to get your petitions in before any other signature candidates because if both candidates have the same name on a petition, the first petition turned in wins that name.
So here is the political reality: Should Ainge or any other signature-gathering GOP candidate FAIL to get 7,000 valid Republican voter signatures on their petitions – then considering the GOP nominee will almost certainly win the general election Nov. 7 -- 500 or so 3rd District GOP delegates will in effect be picking Utah’s next 3rd District U.S. House member.
And considering the incumbent re-election power in Utah, we may have the new 3rd District GOP representative in office for years, if not decades.