Primed for political season
March 16, 2012
The Summit County Democratic and Republican parties held their neighborhood caucuses this week, drawing large crowds as people selected delegates to attend the state and county conventions to pick candidates for the November election. With three County Council seats and local candidates from both parties running for state offices, the caucuses were well attended and lively as people vied for the chance to place their support behind certain candidates.
The Democratic neighborhood caucuses on Tuesday night drew crowds of people to all three locations in Summit County who wanted to ensure the three seats on the County Council remain Democratic.
In North and South Summit combined about 100 people came to select delegates or have their names entered to represent their neighborhood. While some delegates already supported specific County Council candidates, other said they were waiting until the filing period closed, and they heard more input from the candidates and other members of their district.
Steve Peterson, who was picked to represent South Summit at the county and state conventions, said the constituents in his area seemed to have candidates in mind they wanted to see on the ballot, especially local County Council candidate Sean Wharton.
"I am involved in the process because I think people need to be educated about politics," Peterson said. "We cannot have a one-party system and there is a disparity in Utah with the amount of Democrats and Republicans so I want to represent my beliefs and party."
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The caucus meeting at the Park City High School cafeteria drew between 200 and 300 people to select delegates to the Summit County Democratic convention and the state party’s convention.
Up to 60 delegates for the convention were picked Tuesday night. The chairman of the county’s Democratic Party, Glenn Wright, continued to finalize the numbers.
"Our intention was to elect 90 county delegates and 69 state delegates," Wright said. "We didn’t get quite that number so we will be appointing additional delegates in both categories."
The Democrats at Park City High School listened to a stump speech by Peter Cooke, who is challenging for the governor’s mansion. He said state leaders are spending time on issues like sex education that are not as important as others facing the state. Cooke said Park City’s Democrats are important to Utah.
"To me, you’re the center of gravity," Cooke said.
A roster of state and county Democratic candidates attended the caucus meeting at the high school. A person representing President Obama’s re-election campaign also attended.
Elizabeth Krug, who lives in Pinebrook, was selected as a delegate to the county and state conventions, saying in an interview she is not yet committed to any of the candidates. She said she is interested in education issues.
"I think it’s a very fascinating aspect of Utah politics, that you’re this close to the process," Krug said.
Wright said that, overall, the neighborhood caucuses had twice as many people show up than two years ago.
The Democratic County Convention is scheduled to be held on March 31 at 4 p.m. at the Park City Community Church. The Democratic State Convention is scheduled to be held on April 21 at the Salt Palace.
According to the chair of the Summit County Republicans, Henry Glasheen, the turnout at the Republican neighborhood caucuses Thursday night was beyond anything he had seen before.
More than four hundred residents attended the South and North Summit caucuses while Glasheen estimated 900 residents packed the Park City High School auditorium.
With 54 state delegate positions available and 100 county positions, every precinct had more residents volunteer as delegates than open positions. Residents stood before their neighbors and explained why they wanted to represent their precinct or who they planned on voting for. Glasheen said all the delegate positions were filled Thursday night.
With the Republican county convention in a week, many delegates already knew their candidate of choice.
Nancy Klusman, who was selected as a county delegate from the Silver Springs neighborhood, said she has been a Summit County Republican for 18 years and was "delighted" to see she finally had some company.
"I wanted to be a delegate because I want to stay active with the party and when we had more people volunteer than spots available, everyone just talked about why they wanted to be a delegate and who they were leaning towards voting for," Klusman said. "I have an open mind about who I want to be on the ballot, but there are a few people who are favorites. We would like to see more Republican representatives on the County Council and put forward stronger candidates."
Residents at the caucuses browsed through large binders of candidates running for governor, Congress and the Utah Legislature.
Park City resident Tom Cannon said he came to the caucus because he was concerned about the candidates that would be elected to state and federal positions as well as county positions.
"I came because I think we need changes in Washington but don’t need to deconstruct the entire process," Cannon said. "We need to pinpoint where we need change and not mess with the entire thing."
The Republican County Convention will be held on March 23 at 6 p.m. at Park City High School. The Republican State Convention will be held on April 21 at the South Town Expo Center.