Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Primary results and the future of Count My Vote

Well, it's a good thing this is the July 4 holiday weekend. What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to review, analyze, ponder and speculate about last week’s primary election. Your columnists are never bashful about sharing their thoughts.

Gov. Gary Herbert's victory was expected, but not his landslide triumph. Why did his win exceed even the polling numbers? Is the governor really that popular? What are experts mining from the results?

Pignanelli: “The Lord created pollsters to make astrologers look accurate.” — Gov. John Kasich

Despite all the Tuesday night chest thumping from numerous politicos (i.e. “I always knew Herbert would do really well”), no one predicted the governor would capture over 72 percent. No one.

As a disciple of their industry, I am not critical of pollsters. But Herbert’s performance demonstrates the need for surveys to further adapt to 21st-century dynamics in technology and social media in order to garner trends.

Political elites who occasionally grumble about the governor also learned another valuable lesson: Utahns like Gary Herbert. He is impervious to the bombardment of negative attack ads. Also, politicos are noting Republicans overwhelmingly overturned their delegates’ preference at the April convention.

Finally, I wish to provide a professional and high-minded response to the campaign consultants who tried to blemish Herbert by trashing lobbyists: Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah (thumbs in my ears, fingers waving, tongue out).

Webb: In retrospect, Herbert, one of Utah’s most conservative governors (while still being sensible and practical), was probably never vulnerable. He enjoys a deep reservoir of goodwill. But the 55-45 delegate vote win in convention for Jonathan Johnson was a wakeup call. Post-convention, the governor ran a strong, hardworking, positive campaign, showcasing a diversity of endorsements.

Johnson never really introduced himself to Utah voters. They mostly saw negative ads on Common Core and fundraising — not big issues to most Republican voters. Johnson couldn’t even turn hardcore conservatives against Herbert.

Besides showing that delegates are dramatically out-of-touch with most Republican voters, the election also demonstrated the clear-thinking, common sense of Republican voters.

Some primary election candidates gathered signatures to get on the ballot as allowed by Count My Vote (CMV)/SB54. How did they fare and what is CMV’s future?

Webb: Despite Republican Party lawsuits, confusion and opposition, numerous candidates gathered signatures this election cycle. The primary election showed voters don’t care how a candidate gets on the ballot. Herbert gathered signatures and it was not a factor in his primary race, despite Johnson making it a big issue in the convention and vowing to repeal SB54.

The one race where right-wing anti-CMV activists made signature-gathering a key issue was Sen. Curt Bramble’s primary race — and Bramble won. The party insiders who could see their monopoly slipping away threw everything they had at Bramble, but he pulled out a victory.

So the fear of delegates is gone. The political process is now open to a whole range of moderate Republicans who can run for office without having to pander to delegates. Legislators can support or oppose legislation without fear of upsetting delegates. Candidates can gather signatures to get on the ballot without worrying about right-wing backlash. We will now have more primaries, more choices and better public policy.

Pignanelli: I differ from LaVarr and hold the primary election was a mixed bag for CMV. Reformers were pleased SB54 author Sen. Curt Bramble defeated Chris Herrod in a tough battle — where CMV was a major issue. But many incumbents were able to fend off challengers who were on the ballot only through signatures. These results will promote a reassessment of CMV by legislators. However, some incumbents will enjoy the potential of a failsafe mechanism should their voting habits irritate delegates. The bottom line is that Tuesday's results did not offer a final resolution on the CMV tug-of-war.

What do the primary results reveal for the general election? 

Pignanelli: Most politicos correctly predicted Misty Snow would win the Democratic Party Senate primary. The country’s first transgendered nominee of a major party, she will face Sen. Mike Lee. Expect additional media attention on this race.

Many experts are predicting Donald Trump may dampen turnout by Republicans in the general election thereby offering unprecedented opportunities for Utah Democrats. Yet, despite the frustration with the presumptive nominee, Republicans participated well in their primary. But further outrageous outbursts from the billionaire could prevent replication in November. A muzzle for the top of the ticket may be the best weapon for the Utah GOP.

Webb: Misty Snow and Bernie Sanders, the new faces of the Utah Democratic Party, show how far left Utah Democrats have drifted. I’m surprised Mormon-Democrat Doug Owens could even get nominated among the wacky leftists/socialists that comprise the Utah Democratic Party.

Herbert, with such strong support, has a great opportunity in the general election. I hope he will lay out an aggressive, ambitious public policy vision and agenda that will take Utah to the next level, especially make Utah a top 10 education state. He can campaign hard on that agenda, and a big November win gives him a strong mandate to fulfill the agenda in his final term in office.