Summit County political season moves toward critical caucuses
March 19, 2018
The political season turns to the grass-roots level on Tuesday as Summit County Democrats and Republicans hold caucuses, an early but important step as the parties prepare their candidate slates for November.
The parties at the caucuses select delegates to the Summit County political conventions. Candidates want to energize their supporters to attend the caucuses in an effort to amass delegates in their camps. If a candidate wins enough delegate support at the party conventions, they can win a nomination without needing to compete in a primary. They need to secure 60 percent of the delegates at the convention to win the nomination outright. There is also a signature route to the primary ballot, however, that allows a candidate to secure a spot on that ballot if they gather enough names.
The Summit County Democratic Party caucuses are scheduled at Ecker Hill Middle School, South Summit Middle School and North Summit High School starting at 6 p.m. Any person eligible to vote may attend, but they must select the location that matches their region of the county.
The Summit County Republican Party caucuses are slated for Park City High School, North Summit High School and South Summit High School starting at 6:30 p.m. Anyone may attend, but someone must be a registered Republican or register as one at the door to become a delegate or cast a vote for a delegate.
The caucuses provide a close-up opportunity for rank-and-file voters to meet the candidates, learn about platforms and start to rally the party faithful. The caucuses will be followed by county and state conventions, the likelihood of primaries in some of the contests and then a fall election season that could be boisterous should the national political divide slice toward the local campaigns.
The parties are preparing for an important election season with county, state and federal offices on the ballot. It is expected to be a consequential election even without the White House at the top of the ticket. The Democrats have long enjoyed solid results in Summit County, one of the most reliably Democratic parts of the state. Democrats hold all five seats on the Summit County Council, and Democrats on the state and federal levels oftentimes fare best in the county only to lose overwhelmingly in other parts of the districts.
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There is keen interest in the U.S. Senate seat now held by the retiring Republican Orrin Hatch, and the Democrats have hopes for a long shot win in the 1st Congressional District, now held by Republican Rob Bishop. The Democrats also hope they can pick up a state House of Representatives seat covering part of Summit County with Republican incumbents not yet entrenched. The Republicans, though, have confidence this year amid a strong state economy and with the possibility that Mitt Romney, still popular in Utah from his days leading the 2002 Winter Olympics, will be at the top of the ticket as the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate.
"Absolutely motivated," said Brantley Eason, the chair of the Summit County Republican Party. "As far as the county goes, we're super-excited for election season. There's no reason to be pessimistic on our end."
Eason said local politics allows one-on-one interaction between the candidates and the voters, a reason that he anticipates successes in November. He said the local campaigns will focus on issues like transportation and housing.
Cheryl Butler, the Summit County Democratic Party chair, said the party will stress issues like the environment, women's rights, education and health care.
"The caucuses are the kickoff to the entire election season," Butler said. "This year it sets a very hopeful tone."
She said Democrats are also motivated based on the political climate.
"I think they're pretty frustrated and eager to see changes," Butler said.