Utah Democrats release 2020 election debrief

Written by Ingela Rundquist

2020 was an unusual year. We went in with high expectations, assuming we would build on our wins from 2018, protect our congressional seat, and flip seats toward breaking the Republican supermajority in the Utah House. Utah is not yet in a position to be the next Georgia or even the next Texas. We simply do not have the data or resources yet. Such a change will take years of serious organizing, reforms, and building on institutional knowledge. This does not mean all is lost. We had successes, even with our losses, in 2020. 

We must take a look at 2020 in its entirety to determine how best to move forward. For the past three months, the Utah Democratic Party has been conducting an internal review of 2020. We have consulted with candidates, both those who won and those who lost their races; county parties; party staff; and subcommittees, all in an effort to be thorough.  

CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE

  • Roughly three dozen candidates participated in the debrief process over several months. Candidates at all levels were invited.
    • Overall, candidates had success connecting with voters, collaborating with other candidates, gaining support from labor groups, and fundraising. Depending on the county, candidates expressed that they had support from their local party.
    • Candidates primarily expressed difficulties with expanding volunteer bases.
  • Candidates who received organizers from the State Party praised them and the party for making such an investment in their success.
    • Many were concerned that the organizers should have been provided earlier, finding that three months before Election Day was too late in the race to see a significant difference.
    • All candidates with organizers provided to them were in agreement that the Party should continue investing in such programs.
  • UDP’s takeaways were among the following:
    • UDP must be more available and communicative with candidates.
    • UDP will continue to, and improve on, investment in candidate training and resources 
    • Resource requests need timely responses.
    • More candidates should use Votebuilder, and the party should incentivize voter file usage.

COUNTY EXPERIENCE

  • Approximately half of Utah’s 29 County Democratic Parties participated in the debrief. County chairs in rural counties did not have much to report, and as such the debrief’s results and takeaways may be skewed towards more populous counties.
  • Salt Lake, Weber, Wasatch, Utah, Grand, Washington, and Summit counties ran varied levels of coordinated efforts to support their candidates. In Salt Lake, the Mayor’s seat was held and one state legislature seat flipped. Weber was able to hold onto their incumbent seat.
  • All counties unanimously found the grant program useful.
    • Many county parties were unaware of the program after it was initiated. The State Party must do better to promote it in the future.
    • Thanks to the grant program, SLCo was able to text their entire GOTV universe for the first time.
  • Counties also appreciated the voter protection program and thought it was well-run.
  • Counties felt that communication from the state party was absent, and felt a need for a greater degree of support.
    • The county Chair calls ended abruptly with no warning, and there was no regular communication from the party Chair. 
    • Counties across the state, from Salt Lake to Wayne, did not feel as if the party had a plan to communicate with them. Counties found people excited and ready to help, but they sometimes lacked ways to keep them engaged. 
    • Having more communication and collaboration would allow for a more coordinated message.

TAKEAWAYS AND DEBRIEF RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Communications:
    • Communication from party leadership needs to be more consistent and more robust to all stakeholders, including candidates, county leaders, and the public.
    • Send regular emails to stakeholders. For example, county chairs should be receiving an update from the state chair at least every month.
    • Schedule regular calls for county Chairs scheduled and conducted by the Chair of Chairs.
    • Require meetings of Subcommittees, public and scheduled regularly. 
  • Data and Field:
    • Data hygiene must be made a priority of the State Party.
    • Field work has a direct impact on local politics. The party needs to organize on a local level. Table for voter registration at events, travel to each county to conduct trainings, and so on.
    • The Party should provide regional political directors for each section of the state, either volunteer or paid.
    • The Party should invest in field infrastructure.
    • Target precincts or house districts every year and track the data over the years. What is working, and what is not? Find a precinct in each region to do deep canvassing in. Continue for at least 2-3 years to track what effect it is having.
  • Candidate Support:
    • Make Candidate Resources more easily accessible. Make the entire candidate resources spreadsheet an entire folder that is shared with candidates, including a resume bank, breakdown of Votebuilder scores, NDTC templates, etc.
    • Re-establish the mentorship program for candidates. Candidates should be paired with current electeds or past candidates who will be resources to them. The mentor will act as the go-between for the candidate and the state party. This will allow the candidate to have a stakeholder advocating for the needs of the candidate on their behalf, and allow the mentor to filter any unreasonable requests from reaching the state party in the first place.

CONCLUSIONS

The Utah Democratic Party is committed to investing in an infrastructure that will support county parties and candidates alike. The Utah Democratic Party is taking actional steps to address and implement policies that will result in a stronger Utah Democratic Party and more Democratic wins in the state of Utah.

For more information on how to be involved, please visit utahdemocrats.org 

Ingela Rundquist is the Political Director for the Utah Democratic Party