The current multi-candidate gubernatorial campaign shows the value of SB54 and the Count My Vote effort. We would not have such a large and diverse field of candidates if candidates were unable to gather signatures to get on the primary election ballot.
It would be a much different race if all candidates had to go through the old caucus/convention system and emerge first or second in delegate voting.
For one thing, candidates wouldn’t be appealing right now to all Republican voters. Instead, they would be focused exclusively on past state delegates and potential future delegates. They would be spending big money trying to stack the caucuses with their supporters to elect delegates who would support them in the state convention.
The convention would be the big contest, and the delegate chase would be consuming the campaigns right now.
Instead of Spencer Cox and Jon Huntsman leading the pack, Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright (and Rob Bishop if he gets into the race) would likely be considered frontrunners, based on their appeal to delegates. It’s unlikely Jeff Burningham or Aimee Winder Newton would have much chance to get through the convention.
General Republicans voters have much greater choice and importance in this election thanks to SB54 and Count My Vote.
How would Cox do among delegates? Or Huntsman? I think they would struggle. Remember that Cox’s boss, Gov. Gary Herbert, lost badly in the convention in his last race. Remember that another political moderate, Congressman John Curtis, got clobbered in convention and would not be in Congress today were it not for SB54.
Given the greater choice in candidates, and the empowering of all Republican voters, I don’t understand why Sen. Mike Lee is trying to get SB54 repealed, forcing candidates to exclusively use the caucus convention system. Lee’s own Republican voters clearly don’t want him to change the law. He seems to be relying on his interpretation of the constitutional issues involved, but SB54 has been upheld at all levels of the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to even consider the case against SB54.
Some people speculate that Lee is pushing for the repeal because he doesn't want a moderate primary challenger in 2022. I don’t think Lee will have difficulty getting re-elected. I queried his office about his stance and didn’t get a reply.
It will be interesting to see if any attempt is made to repeal SB54 in the upcoming legislative session. I doubt the effort would be successful. Too many legislators like the option of gathering signatures to ensure a spot on the primary ballot. And Gov. Herbert would likely veto legislation repealing the law.
But SB54 could use a few tweaks. Utah needs a runoff election if no candidates gets above 35 percent of the vote in the primary election. And the signature requirements need some changes.
Also, some folks have proposed putting a repeal measure on the ballot to allow voters to choose, once and for all, how they want their elections conducted.
That would be fine with me. Bring it on. Voters overwhelmingly support the dual path to the primary ballot.