We can affirm that most Utahns are sane, commonsense people who are exhausted by the Mueller investigation. They’re also tired of the never-ending fight over SB54 and Count My Vote. We contribute to the fatigue by exploring, one more time, the impact of these issues on our state.
Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed SB123, which gave party delegates control over naming candidates to run in a special election to fill a congressional vacancy. This is a continuation of the fight over SB54 and whether all voters, or just delegates, choose candidates. Will the governor's veto be upheld, or will the Legislature override the governor, putting power in the hands of party delegates?
Pignanelli: "My friends, no matter how rough the road, we can and we will, never surrender to what is right.” — Dan Quayle
The idiom "bad penny" describes an unpleasant or unwanted thing which repeatedly appears at inopportune times. The convention/delegate process and the furor surrounding SB54 is a "bad penny" despised by thousands. Herbert understands this and it explains the veto.
Legislators balance between the minority of loud protestors opposed to the election changes and the majority of residents who want the signature option for the primary. Lawmakers left SB54 untouched since passage in 2014, but threw small change (another penny metaphor) this year at the activists with SB123. Deep fatigue suffered by Capitol Hill politicos combined with the Supreme Court decision creates an incentive to sustain the veto.
Veto survival benefits lawmakers and the rest the population by eliminating those annoying pennies.
Webb: Herbert’s veto was courageous and correct. It should be upheld. Utah voters overwhelmingly want a say in choosing party nominees, even in special elections. The dual-track nomination system empowers all voters, not just party activists. The process has worked very well and the governor is right to insist the SB54 statutory process be followed in special elections. I predict the governor prevails.
A key factor in the future of the Republican Party will be the election of a new state chair at the party organizing convention in early May. Current chair Rob Andersondeclined to seek re-election after long and bitter fights with the right wing of the party. What is the current state of the GOP and potential impact on the 2020 elections?
Pignanelli: The Utah GOP Convention will be of crucial importance to the party, and the state. Should delegates choose a new chairman that continues the battle on SB54, the party will sink into irrelevancy, jeopardizing organizational and fundraising activities. Further, future growth is questioned as Millennial and Generation Z voters are unwilling to embrace a process that is alien to their technological prowess.
However, if delegates select a mainstream leader willing to heal wounds, then Utahns will believe that the majority party is serious about rational public policy on matters that really concern them.
Webb: Utah Republicans should feel lucky they are so dominant in the state. Otherwise, party dysfunction and chaos would hurt GOP candidates. Party activists spend most of their time bickering over arcane party rules and what constitutes a purist Republican, rather than raising money for candidates and organizing at the neighborhood level. Some county Republican parties even snub candidates who don’t go through the caucus/convention system. So much for Ronald Reagan’s“big tent.”
GOP candidates know they get very little help from the party, so they do everything themselves. Many prominent Republicans have given up on the party and have formed a totally independent group, the Reagan Roundtable, to raise money and support sensible candidates.
Of the candidates running for GOP chair, Derek Brown, an attorney and former legislator who has worked for senators Mike Lee, Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, has the best chance of restoring some semblance of order and respect to the party. But it will be very difficult.
What impact does the results of the Mueller investigation report have on local politics and the 2020 elections?
Pignanelli: Mueller's analysis is Twitter fodder for the president. He will tweet frequently about the report exonerating him, while strident detractors obnoxiously nitpick various details. Thus, it becomes background noise for most voters — unless another investigation reveals something truly noteworthy. Democrats will gain more traction by highlighting the weaknesses on tariffs and healthcare.
Webb: It’s very good news for Republicans to have the collusion illusion behind them. If Trump will focus on mainstream issues and the economy, and not digress in weird directions (good luck with that!) Republicans have the potential to have a good 2020 election year.
Trump was, no doubt, a drag on Mia Love in 2018, helping deliver a win to Democrat Ben McAdams in the 4th Congressional District. But if the economy is rolling, Trump stays under control, national Democrats chase leftist policies, Republicans nominate a solid, mainstream candidate, and if they can get the vote out in Utah County (a lot to ask!), then 2020 could be a tough election for McAdams.