A third of Utah state Republican Party delegates support the new dual-route candidate primary law, also known as SB54, a new UtahPolicy.com poll by Dan Jones & Associates shows.
Sixty-two percent oppose the new law, now being challenged in federal court by the state GOP.
The survey’s results also find that 58 percent of party delegates – the 4,000 or so neighborhood-elected grassroots folks seen as the backbone of the institution – have a favorable impression of GOP state chairman James Evans, who has been the face of the anti-SB54 party effort.
Twelve percent have an unfavorable impression of Evans.
And in a perhaps-surprising result, 20 percent have never heard of Evans, even though he had led the state party for three years and was elected twice by delegates at the state convention, most recently last summer.
Leaders of the state GOP never supported SB54, the 2014 legislative-approved compromise bill with the Count My Vote citizen petition effort.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law. But, now facing an intra-party challenger for his re-election in 2016, Herbert recently said if he had it to do over again he would have vetoed SB54 and let the Count My Vote all-primary proposal go to the general election ballot for voters to decide.
Those voters, of course, would include all Utahns, not just Republicans. And the CMV petition had strong majority support among all Utahns in public opinion polls taken back in 2013 and 2014 before CMV-backers shelved the plan for the SB54 compromise.
Friday, speaking on KSL Radio, Herbert said perhaps it would wise to allow now the CMV petition to go to voters.
The GOP-controlled Legislature, now in session, could put any item before voters this November.
But several GOP House and Senate leadership sources told UPD Friday afternoon that no one has talked about putting CMV on this November’s ballot.
In any case, SB54 is now the law. And unless stopped by a court, Utah Election Office officials say they will follow the dual-route process for all candidates this election year.
And officials will put on the June primary ballot any candidate who gets the required number of signatures under SB54, no matter what the party delegates may say about the person in spring party conventions.
More than 70 candidates – by far most of them Republicans, including Herbert – are currently out gathering signatures to make the June GOP primary election.
In his new poll, Jones asked GOP delegates what’s termed a naked re-elect on Evans. Should Evans continue to be the state Republican Party chairman, or is it time to give a new person a chance to serve?
Sixty percent said Evans should continue to serve – a nice support number for him.
But 27 percent said no, it’s time to let someone else be party chairman.
Twelve percent of GOP delegates didn’t have an opinion on Evans’ tenure.
Jones polled 605 GOP delegates (their names are public) out of just over 4,000 statewide.
It’s true that new delegates will be chosen at the March 22 Utah Republican Party caucuses. And it will be those delegates that vote on candidates in the April state convention, and a year from now will vote for party officers.
But more than 50 percent of the current crop said they plan to run again in March for their state delegate slots.
And retention of party delegates from one cycle to the next is usually pretty high.
Jones polled the delegates from Jan. 13-16, the margin of error a plus or minus 3.67%.
(Editor’s note: In Tuesday’s UPD read how delegates feel on state Republican Party issues, like whether GOP signature candidates should be allowed to remain in the party, whether such candidates are seen in a good or poor light by delegates and whether rank-and-file registered Republicans should be kicked out of the party for signing candidate petitions.)