This week’s Summit County political conventions deserve same attention as caucuses
Summit County’s political conventions take place this week, but it is unlikely they will draw the same enthusiastic crowds that attended the caucuses last month. That is unfortunate because the conventions offer citizens an important introduction to the issues, both local and regional, that will be central to the upcoming election campaigns.
The Democrats are set to meet Saturday and the Republicans are scheduled to convene Thursday.
Thanks to the dramatic presidential races on both sides of the political aisle, local residents turned out in droves to cast their ballots during the caucuses. It was a refreshing display of civic engagement, one we wish would continue throughout the election season. But this year’s county convention agendas feature very few contested nominations –the Democrats have one contest, the Republicans have none.
In the sole contested county race on the Democratic ticket, Sean Wharton and Doug Clyde will make their pitches to local delegates to run for the seat currently held by Claudia McMullin. While the county council faces many contentious issues from dog leash regulations to land planning, the main issue of contention between these two candidates is a proposal to redraw portions of the zoning map on the East Side.
Both candidates sit on the county’s East Side Planning Commission but took opposite sides on the issue. Wharton voted to forward a positive recommendation on a proposal to allow increased residential density in the unincorporated areas along State Road 32, Clyde voted against it. Like the presidential candidates, both have lined up delegates to support them at the convention — the outcome, though, is far from certain.
But while the zoning alterations have the potential to dramatically change the landscape along the highway corridors in North and South Summit, we hope delegates will quiz the candidates on a variety of other issues as well, including their commitments to environmental sustainability, affordable housing and transportation alternatives.
On the Republican side, while delegates won’t be asked to cast ballots, the convention process itself is in upheaval and Thursday’s meeting will give constituents a chance to grill party leaders and state office holders about it. Last year, in an effort to blunt the influence of the extreme right wing of the party, Republican lawmakers enacted a rule allowing candidates to bypass the convention and to qualify for the primary ballot by collecting signatures. That didn’t sit well with some party leaders and the ongoing battle is making the future murky for several candidates including Park City’s representative to the state House of Representatives.
That issue and others including the future of Utah’s public lands, funding for health care, LGBTQ rights and funding for Planned Parenthood will be important to consider as local residents cast their votes in June’s primary and November’s General Election.
This week is a perfect time for local voters to confront the candidates for governor, Congress and the state Legislature to ensure they address the issues they care about.
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