Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM . She is also a locally elected county and state delegate for the Washington County Republican Party. The commentary and opinions given in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.
Joyce Kuzmanic contributed news elements* to this article, specifically the election results.
*NEWS AND OPINION – The freedom to vote is a very serious business; just ask the thousands of state delegates who traveled to the Sandy in northern Utah, on their own dime, to vote on behalf of their cities and districts.
Attending the Republican Convention, held at the South Towne Exhibition Center, was an eye-opening experience as I witnessed the art of politics being played out before my eyes. The greetings, the handshakes, the nods of agreement while politicians made their cases, and passionate rhetoric were all present and accounted for. If there had been babies present to kiss, they would have had their fair share of attention. Candidate signs, T-shirts, hats and cardboard cutouts were everywhere.
There were 3,918 delegates there ready to cast their votes. The U.S. Senate race included front-runner candidates, incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, former state Rep. Chris Herrod and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Each one of the candidates mustered up as much passion as they could for their six-minute speeches, which were timed down to the second.
The delegates each wore a small electronic voting device to make the process quick and seamless. Utah State Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright had his hands full as the master of ceremonies for the 13-hour event as the delegates narrowed down the field of candidates to just one or two per race. Primary elections take place two months from now between the top two candidates of a race if a single candidate did not gather at least 60 percent of the vote.
The first drama emerged in the U.S. Senate race. Liljenquist forced Hatch into a first-ever primary election when Liljenquist gained 40.81 percent of the delegate vote and Hatch 59.1 percent, just 32 votes shy of a 60 percent shoo-in. This was a huge upset to the 36-year career of this veteran senator, who had always been victorious in receiving the majority vote to get automatic Republican nomination in Utah. Whichever of these prevails at GOP primary will run against Democratic nominee Scott Howell in November.
State Delegate Chris Chamberlain from Kearns said, “Well, Hatch almost pulled it off, he got 57.25% in the first round of balloting compared to Liljenquist’s 28.28 percent. We all thought he would easily get the 60 percent needed in the second round of balloting. But, when Thomas Wright stood up and announced, ‘We have the results for the second round of balloting.’ Then jokingly asked, ‘do you want to hear them?’ We all paused for the inevitable. But then his words ‘We’re going to have a primary,’ came as quite a shock. He then announced Hatch had 59.19 percent. That came a quite a relief to those of us who were supporting Liljenquist.”
Governor Gary Herbert, incumbent, claimed the nomination for Governor; beating out Morgan Philpot and clinching just over 61 percent of the vote. Tea party enthusiasts were hoping to give Philpot a chance at becoming Utah’s next governor. Herbert will defend his seat against Democratic nominee Peter Cooke.
Herbert’s sitting Lt. Governor, Greg Bell, was sustained for the campaign on a yea or nay vote with resounding yeas. Bell’s counterpart by Democratic appointed nominee is Vince Rampton.
John Swallow and Sean Reyes will battle it out in a GOP primary election for Attorney General nominee. Their face-off Democratic opponent will be Dee Smith.
GOP Incumbent Treasurer, Richard K. Ellis, is uncontested within the GOP and will defend his position against Democratic nominee, Chris Stout.
For some reason, with no disrespect to the job or its holder intended, nomination for the state Auditor is that moment in the process akin to a foreign film award at the Oscars; it’s called “bathroom break,” (which, incidentally, were heavily weighted in queue on the men’s side, the women’s had no line at all the entire convention). And the nominees are . . . Austin Johnson for the GOP, defeating John Dougall, and Mark Sage for the Democratic Party.
Three candidates vied for nomination for the District 27 State Senate seat, incumbent David Hinkins, Stephen Whyte and Michael Stansfield. Stansfield dropped out in the first round of voting, and Hinkins ultimately prevailed as the nominee with 69.89 percent of the delegate vote over 30.1 percent to Whyte. Hinkins will defend his seat against Democratic candidate Michael L. “Mike” Binyon in the November election.
In another surprising turn, Utah incumbent Senator Casey Anderson received only 57 percent of the delegate vote, 3 percent shy of the 60 percent requirement to sustain his nomination. Anderson blamed the miss on 24 delegates either not showing or not voting, 12 of which got their credentials in too late to qualify for voting. Five additional votes would have given Anderson the nomination. Anderson now goes to GOP primary, in nomination contention against Evan Vickers, who received 43 percent of the vote, to vie for the District 28 State Senate seat against Democratic nominee Geoffrey Chestnut.
Incumbent Sen. Stephen H. Uquhart runs uncontested by the party to defend his seat against Democratic candidate Terence Moore for the District 29 State Senate seat.
Rob Bishop was nominated for the 1st Congressional District seat with 81 percent of the vote. Democratic delegate voting is ongoing to decide between candidates Ryan Combe and Donna McAleer, with their nomination expected to be announced by 5 p.m. on April 23.
Southern Utah came out in force with 10 Republican candidates seeking nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. There was an 11th candidate who filed who did not show. The nominee will fight for the seat against Democratic nominee Jay Seegmiller – incumbent Rep. James Matheson is the Democratic nominee for the new 4th Congressional District, raising the hopes of the GOP to take the 2nd District, which has long been held by Matheson. Fireworks erupted and the 2nd District nominee race will be discussed shortly below in depth.
Jason Chaffetz clinched the nomination for the 3rd Congressional District seat by capturing 74.87 percent of the delegate vote. Chaffetz will run against Democratic candidate Soren Simonsen in November.
Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, received just over 70 percent of the vote, in a surprise upset beating out favorite Carl Wimmer, to capture the nomination for new 4th Congressional District seat. Love’s Democratic opponent will be the much-favored Matheson, promising a stimulating race to watch.
The last few hours of the convention were filled with high political scandal and theatrics in the 2nd Congressional District seat delegate voting. Rarely-seen campaigning, Eureka mayor, Milt Hanks, candidate for the nomination, gave a fiery and accusatory speech. Hanks shockingly declared that backdoor deals had been conducted that morning between candidates Dave Clark, Cherilyn Eagar, Howard Wallace and Chuck Williams. He said the four made the deal in an attempt to combine their efforts against the front-runner Chris Stewart. He said he was called to join this group in their efforts but had declined. Hanks said it was dirty politics that make it impossible for the political process to work correctly and threw his support toward Stewart in front of the crowd, as he wanted to shed transparency on the issue. Everyone in attendance seemed surprised and confused.
In the vote that followed, Stewart took the lead at 39 percent, Clark came in second, and Hanks came in third place with a whopping 121 votes – after Hanks did virtually no campaigning.
Eager stepped onto the stage to give her speech for the next round of voting, publicly denouncing the dirty politics and calling for an investigation into Stewart’s campaign. Eager’s one-minute speech abruptly ended and she stood on the stage arguing with officials over getting more time at the microphone. Her highly charged state of emotion was evident, as she appeared speechless and angry at the prior voting results.
Candidate Chuck Williams took the stage and called Stewart a bold-faced liar as his emotional speech was cut off and his microphone muted. (As an aside, there was a mic muting at the Democratic Convention as well when one speaker overshot the time allotment, this is not altogether uncommon.) Williams, nevertheless, withdrew from the race, abruptly followed by candidate Howard Wallack, who followed suit with his own withdrawal. Eager then defiantly withdrew and all three of these candidates stood behind Clark on the stage to give Clark their collective support – just as Hanks had predicted in his speech.
Wallack said afterward that all four candidates had thought that Stewart ran a negative campaign and that, yes, he and the other candidates had decided that they would try to force a primary by withdrawing from the race and backing whoever took second place behind Stewart. They thought Stewart had constructed his own negative ad in a mailer; just to appear the victim of negative advertising. As both a county and state delegate, I personally never witnessed Stewart ever say a negative thing about any candidate at the many speeches that I attended and in my conversations with Stewart, and neither I nor any delegate I spoke with received any such advertisement as a delegate. That type of negative advertising would not have helped Stewart’s career and I am doubtful that Stewart’s own campaign would of sought to harm his chances of winning. The accusation doesn’t make sense. And many delegates said that they perceived these actions as ones of desperation in a tightly contested race for this seat.
Candidate Jason Buck’s campaign manager said that Buck had been approached that morning to be in the “Anyone But Chris or ABC” club and that Buck had declined, telling the person who called that he wasn’t interested in playing those types of politics.
Eager’s onstage tantrum was disconcerting to watch and William’s brazen accusations against Stewart’s character seemed over the top. Stewart was declined an opportunity to defend himself by Utah GOP Chair Wright, even after one of the delegates called for a humorously titled, “what the hell!?” motion, proposing Stewart be allowed to reply to the accusations; the motion was denied.
Many delegates said they felt confused and frustrated as they sought to seek the truth and make sense out of the events. Conspiracy theories became the crux of every conversation before the third and final vote took place for opponents Clark and Stewart. Some said they thought Stewart’s camp had placed Hanks in the race in an attempt to bolster Stewart’s already favored win. Clark’s camp denied any wrongdoing and said Stewart was behind the theatrics to foster an “underdog” vote. Stewart’s camp said they were in shock over the allegations and attempts to defame his character.
Stewart received over 61 percent of the vote in the third round, ousting Clark out of a primary, and capturing the nomination. The race will move on with Stewart facing his democratic challenger, Seegmiller, in the quest to be a state congressman.
Hopefully, this is a lesson learned and Stewart can enjoy his victory while moving ahead with his race against his opponents.
It is time to realize that game-playing politicians will be seen for what they are truly trying to accomplish and that the voters will be smart enough to understand the game.
Our political process hangs by a thread when the actions of some serve to denigrate the hard work of others.
Be present, dear readers, at the polls this November to give your voice to a political process that still matters.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.