Saturday, April 26, 2008

I called it (again)

Yesterday I said: "I will be shocked if incumbents don't fall both at the primary and at the general election stages of this year's legislative elections." And commenter Brian doubted that this would happen, at least among Utah County Republicans. And yet...
Utah County Republicans today rejected one incumbent seeking re-election: state Rep. Aaron Tilton.
The two-term Springville lawmaker was bounced in favor of challenger Francis Gibson.
Tilton had come under fire with allegations of conflict of interest involving his business, which is seeking to build the first nuclear power plant in Utah. He also is a member of the Public Utilities and Technology Committee in the Legislature.
Gibson, of Mapleton, knocked Tilton out of the running by getting more than 60 percent of the delegate vote.
All other incumbents up for election secured their nominations at the Utah County Republican Convention this morning at Orem High School.
OK so only one in Utah County lost in the convention, and the other challengers don't even get a primary. But, my prediction was about all incumbents both Democrats and Republicans, and in every county in the state. While I focused on the Utah County Republicans the last few days, it was only because they had the most fireworks, and an incumbent not even getting 40% at convention does indicate that the activist base is upset in Happy Valley. While there may not be in primaries in Utah County, there will be primaries in other counties in Utah and I still stand by my prediction. Maybe this latest news doesn't wholly vindicate me, but I think it certainly doesn't contradict my thesis.

Anyway, have a good weekend. If I feel up to it tonight (aka the Jazz go back to their winning ways) I may post a special treat for my readers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I feel it in my fingers...

I feel it in my toes, anti-incumbent fever, and the feeling grows. The top two stories (A-1 above the fold right below the paper's banner) were on the public's dissatisfaction with Utah politics.

One was on the Utah County Republican Party and a re-hash of the daughter delegate story, now with the new news that the challenging party caved. But there are more delegate accusations now.
The most inflammatory new allegation is that an unnamed party official tried to block someone from becoming a delegate because the person would oppose Bramble at the convention.

The accusation was made by a respected former state GOP officeholder who requested anonymity. He said a party official called him before last month's neighborhood caucus meetings in which delegates are chosen and asked him to help keep a woman opposed to Bramble from being elected as a delegate from his precinct.

Republican Party bylaws require party officials to remain neutral during a convention race between two Republicans.
There are more listed in the article, which you can read about if you are interested. Suffice it to say, the local party activists are clearly VERY unhappy with their current leadership. Otherwise, all of these complaints would not be getting in the newspaper.

Next up, a "How corrupt is your state rep/senator?" article. They make this great graphic.

A computer-aided search of those candidates by the Deseret News shows GOP Utah County incumbents on average got $4,984 so far this year from special interests, while the GOP candidates challenging those incumbents got, on average, only $267 from special interests.

"Special interests always want to give to a winner," says Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "And incumbents are proven winners. In Utah, particularly, where corporate giving is allowed, that is the lowest-hanging fruit for incumbents. So they take that easy money instead of working harder to raise money from individuals and constituents. Challengers can't get the special-interest money, so they have to go to individuals."
As usual, Kirk Jowers does my work for me, explaining a critical point. But his comment doesn't explain this:
Earlier this month, House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, told his GOP caucus that the House Republican PAC would give money to incumbents who are being challenged within the party — a new policy for House GOP leaders, who used to give money only after the Republican nominees were picked.

So what does the Deseret News consider a "special interest?" anyway?
Some special interests gave to virtually all of the incumbents seeking re-election in Utah County. EnergySolutions donated to 13 of the 14 GOP incumbents (all but Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork). Injury law firm Robert J. Debry & Associates gave to eight; the Utah House Republican Election Committee (a legislative leaders' PAC raising money mostly from special interests) gave to seven; Siegfried & Jensen gave to six, for example.

The pro-voucher Parents for Choice in Education was offering significant help to four pro-voucher incumbents facing challenges — and was the single-largest donor overall to Utah County incumbents among special interests at $5,044 total.
Now there is nothing wrong with advocacy groups contributing to people who they support because the politician agrees with them on their issue. The strategy of "buying access"--giving money to who you think will be the winner in hopes that you can later talking him into voting your way--is troubling. But this next practice really ought to be illegal in Utah (it is illegal in many other states and at the federal level):
Sometimes special interest donations allowed lawmakers to put money directly into their own pockets. For example, Dougall gave himself $10,314 to repay an old campaign loan he had made. (He faces no opposition Saturday.) [Rep. Christopher] Herrod [(R-Provo)], who does have opposition, similarly took $5,000 to repay himself for old loans.
Paying back loans they once made to their campaign is just a step or two away from using that money to buy themselves a boat or a house. I will be shocked if incumbents don't fall both at the primary and at the general election stages of this year's legislative elections.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

waste of column space

Could someone explain to me why this article was in the paper today?
The field is getting smaller on "American Idol," but it still includes Utah's David Archuleta.
The teenager from Murray advances after singing "Think of Me" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera."
Carly Smithson, the 24-year-old Irish bartender from San Diego, was eliminated Wednesday, despite good reviews for performing "Superstar" from "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Congrats to Mr. Archuleta, but does anyone who watches this show need this in the paper? And conversely, do people who don't watch the show need to know this, besides classmates, teachers, friends, and family, who I am sure overwhelming watch the show and even sit in the audience?

I know people love "local boy/girl does well" stories, but when that doing well involves going on a reality TV show, I really don't see that as something that needs to be rewarded any more than being on TV already is. If they win a debate tournament, a sports tournament, a music competition, a spelling bee, etc. that isn't televised, then by all means let me know.

But stories about a contestant's progress through "American Idol" is just like a story about someone making it through "Survivor" or any other "reality" show. People go on such shows to become famous, and maybe win money or a get career in their field of choice. I have no trouble with news stories about the person on the show, like how they became such a good singer or whatever, but if I cared about whether they were still on the show or not, I would watch the show. And since I haven't watched "Idol" since the third season, I therefore don't care about how Mr. Archuletta does on the show nor do I want my precious time wasted reading/hearing about said show. But good luck nonetheless kid.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here we go again?

It seems someone has placed a call alleging that abuse is occurring in Hildale, UT, an FLDS-run town. Utah's AG Mark Shurtleff is making sure she isn't the one who placed the call:
(Rozita Swinton, the alleged Texas FLDS caller)

The Utah Attorney General's Office is now in contact with other law enforcement authorities investigating similar calls made to anti-polygamy activists, Arizona child welfare workers and a Texas family crisis shelter.

"We're working with other authorities to see if it deserves further scrutiny," Utah attorney general spokesman Paul Murphy told the Deseret News Tuesday night.

A Colorado Springs woman has been declared a "person of interest" in the Texas Department of Public Safety's investigation into the calls that sparked the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's community near Eldorado.

A 16-year-old girl named "Sarah" called a family crisis center hotline, claiming that she had been beaten, was pregnant and married to a 50-year-old Colorado City, Ariz., man named Dale Barlow. Authorities have been unable to find her, and questioned Barlow in St. George but did not arrest him.

Anti-polygamy activists received similar calls, and when the girl's story became suspicious, they forwarded them on to the Texas Rangers.

Last week, Colorado Springs police arrested 33-year-old Rozita Swinton on charges of making a false report stemming from an incident in February where she's accused of claiming to be a child in distress to a local shelter.

Texas Rangers were there for the arrest and have said they seized items from her apartment that indicated a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding the FLDS compounds in Colorado City and Eldorado. The Texas Department of Public Safety has declined to comment further on the case. Swinton has a prior conviction for making a false report to police.

Rod Parker, an attorney acting as spokesman for the FLDS Church said Tuesday that "Sarah Barlow doesn't exist and Dale Barlow lives in Arizona."
Parker, like any defense attorney worth their salt, is going to argue that the case against his client should be tossed because of Swinton's phony calls.

Shurtleff's approach of prosecuting the crimes surrounding the FLDS--child rape, abuse, police misconduct, kidnapping, embezzlement, welfare fraud--and not polygamy in-and-of itself, is a smart one. (And the exact opposite of the Texas approach) The idea is to bring these communities "above ground" and have the women and children in these societies begin to trust the police and prosecutors, and not to think they are going after the polygamists because of their plural marriage practices. This is a tactic, not a policy based on the AG's view of the morality of polygamy.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the investigation into these calls uncovers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

re: are primaries good?

Originally, I was going attempt to tie in the PA primary with what happens in Utah primaries, but I guess I forgot that thread after I got hung up on the way the D-News got its "scoop."

So enough meta, my point is this. Primaries aren't always good or bad things for parties. It depends on the situation. Let's take the biggest primary race ever: Clinton vs. Obama (I say ever in terms of real dollars raised and spent, as well as votes cast, etc.) This race has been good for the party, but the lull between Missippi and Pennslyvannia caused things to get snippy and not helpful for the party. Swing counties in the 'burbs of Philly, like Bucks County, became blue as a result of this hard-fought race. That has to be good news for the party's chances of winning the Keystone State in November, even if Obama loses it big today and becomes the nominee. Voter registration and participation for Democrats has gone through the roof this cycle. My favorite statistic has to be that more people voted in the Texas prima-caucus for Obama and Clinton than voted for John Kerry in November 2004. Turnout appears to be high today, repeating a pattern from the other 40-something states.

Other times, a primary is destructive. The U.S. Senate race in Oregon seems to be an example of that on the Dem side, while the 2006 Senate primary in RI on GOP is another example. When primaries get personal and nasty, both candidates look worse. Another way this can happen is if it is ideological and the incumbent is hanging onto a district based on his or her personal connection to voters alone. This is the danger in MD-1, where moderate Republican Wayne Gilchrest was outsted by a Club for Growth candidate.

So would it hurt the GOP's chances in Salt Lake County to have primaries or go to the convention? Conventions to me seem relatively painless for the candidates if nothing embarassing like stalking charges or insane statements come out of it. Because if the attacks are just between activists, regular voters won't even know about it. For my sanity, I wish Obama and Clinton would just conduct their daily phone conferences with the remaining 300-or-so superdelegates and leave the rest of us alone.

Primaries are a chance to test out GOTV operations, messaging, train campaign workers/get experience as a campaign worker, and get to know your base voters. So as long as the potential pitfalls of primaries can be avoided, I think they are a good idea.

are primaries good?

While millions vote in the pivitol Pennslyvannia Democratic primary today, a local political story caught my eye.
A Utah House GOP candidate says he was encouraged by a county party officeholder to get out of his race but declined to do so.
Rob Alexander is one of two Republicans who filed against Democratic incumbent Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray. Rick Taylor also filed for the House District 35 seat.

In a comment post to a Deseret News article on Monday, Alexander says that after he filed at the request of Salt Lake County Chairman James Evans, he got a telephone call from Carrie Towner, a Senate District chairwoman. Even though Towner was from a different Senate district than is Alexander, she asked him to get out of the race, since Taylor, a candidate she supports and asked to run, was already in the race, Alexander said.
That's right, the Deseret News is writing about a comment posted to one of its stories on its website. What a brave new world indeed. They didn't even need think up the contextual link either because, by Alexander's commenting on stories about Utah County Republican Party shenanigans, he gave them the context.

Now Carrie was a classmate of mine at law school, and I like both her and her husband. Bob Bernick that "intrepid reporter," must have called her up for her reaction to Alexander's comment. Or maybe he just waited for Carrie to reply to the comment thread. And people like me call journalist's lazy...he had to pick up the phone and call people, THEN type. Oh the horrors.
But Towner says Alexander misinterpreted her telephone call. While she did recruit Taylor, she said she called both candidates after the filing deadline to suggest that they get together and decide if one or the other "really didn't want to run" — and thus a party convention, and perhaps a primary, could be avoided.

"I didn't pressure (Alexander) to get out any more than I did (Taylor)," she said.

But Alexander said he found Towner's call odd — especially since she was not from his Senate district. "She was passing herself off as my district chair, a person who supposedly had some kind of authority over me. She is not from my district. She made it clear that (Taylor) was not going to get out (of the race) and asked if I wanted to. It was all kind of fishy. Both she and (Taylor) were at the same meeting where James [Evans SL County GOP chair] announced that I would run for this seat and they didn't say anything," Alexander said in an interview.

While it is against party rules for a party officer to take sides in an intra-party challenge, Evans said that rule only applies to the current chairman, vice chairman, treasurer and secretary of individual county parties and the state party, not to other party officeholders, like a Senate district chair, as is Towner.

"So no rule was violated" by the telephone call, said Evans.
Note to the Towners, don't let Evans come to your defense. The "they didn't break the rules!" line really makes you look worse. Tell him you will handle this one. The man can't help but sink candidates (did Sheriff Winder ever send you a bouquet?). Anyway, if either Towner wishes to comment further on the episode or the article, feel free to do it here. You don't want to put it in the D-News' comment board, they will surely need to fill in more space and write an article on that next.

This line by Evans is slightly better:
"Carrie was on a candidate recruitment committee the last two years, since the 2006 elections. And so she and others have been looking for candidates" countywide. When the 2006 GOP candidate, who was expected to run again, decided not to run at the last minute, Evans said he and other county GOP activists started beating the bushes — and no doubt that is when Towner found Taylor and asked him to run.

"We don't do what the Democrats do all the time. They pick one person and run them" with few intra-party fights, said Evans. Republicans have multiple candidates in many races, said Evans. "And we only said: 'If this is something you really don't want to do, and if we have a good candidate in the race already, then feel free"' to get out, said Evans.
He has a (sort of) good point, Utah Dems rarely have primaries. But the real question is why, and if you know that, then you know that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

First off, there aren't that many places were there are enough Dems to have primaries I can name the neighborhoods off the top of my head and I am sure you can think of the same. Heck, there are some races were Democrats struggle to find candidates even to run. The GOP in Utah rarely has that problem. Second, when you are in the minority to the extent that Democrats in Utah are, you get vary pragmatic, and tend to coalesse around the most "electable" candidate. While there are Dems and liberals I know in Utah that are dissatisfied with moderates like Jim Matheson, you don't see any of them wasting their time and money trying to primary him.

And speaking of Jim, he can thank his lucky stars he didn't have run against Carrie in 2002, when he got only 1600 votes more than the detestable John Swallow. Did the same convention goers that nixed Gov. Walker's bid do in Carrie?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Buttars clean out your desk

It appears we won't have Chris Buttars to kick around anymore.
A Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates in late March found that among Senate District 10 registered voters, 67 percent said it is time to let someone new serve, and among only GOP voters in District 10, 54 percent said it was time to elect a new senator....
Buttars said he's well aware of the "three or four" delegate meetings that have, and will, exclude him. "It is very tacky — to have a meet-the-candidate night and not invite all the candidates," Buttars said. But he's still working hard, holding breakfasts, lunches and dinners with delegates, and finding nearly all of them willing to listen to him.

He didn't want to talk about how delegates are receiving him, especially what he is hearing or not about his black baby comments. "Yes, I believe I'll come out of the convention," said Buttars, 66.
Challenger Armstrong pointed to a Deseret News analysis that showed Buttars was second to last in the Senate when it comes to effectiveness in passing bills this past session. He said the delegates he talks to are sending the message: "We definitely need someone new in there." But it's not solely because of the controversy surrounding him. "It's more content-based than the black baby comment," he said. "They just don't feel like the image he portrays is what they want portraying them."

Hilton said that when Buttars went into "hiding" after his stumble during the end of the 2008 session, there were a number of important votes he missed, including a vote on a school district split bill. The Jordan School District and Buttars' District 10 went through a controversial district split in 2007. And Hilton said while she didn't oppose the original school district law passed recently by the Legislature, she does oppose how the Jordan District split vote was done. She also opposed private school vouchers, while Buttars supports them. Vouchers were voted down by citizens last November.

"You can't miss votes like that," said Hilton, who is in her third term on the council. "No matter what happens, you can't run away and hide."

Another candidate, Smith-DeRusha, said the district is looking for someone "who will get something done, as opposed to standing on a pulpit." She pointed to Buttars' so-called message bills, such as his attempt at barring Salt Lake City from initiating a domestic partner registry. That effort failed and lawmakers instead approved guidelines for such registries.

"I don't need another message bill, I want someone to do something for the west side," Smith-DeRusha said. "It's time to elect a true conservative."
Don't look for the new state senator to vote very differently from Buttars, but there should be less in-your-face anti-gay/evolution/etc. bills from that seat. A quiet conservative.

PS Happy Passover!