Elected Delegates At The State Convention

So Far the district delegates:

Carlos Vasquez, Connie Neilson, Lisa Alcott, Ross Romero, Jordan Apollo Pazell, and Emily Rushton for Clinton.

Cathy Snyder, Scott McCoy, Kelvin Lynn Davis, Kurt Bestor, Theodore A Cowan Jr, C. Millicent Lewis, and Brian Spittler for Obama.

There are two more Obama delegates to announce from District 2 once the final votes are counted. Then those delegates vote for the three party leader or elected official delegates (2 Obama, 1 Clinton). Finally those delegates later tonight elect the unpledged add-on delegate. I was a bit worried how the unpledged delegate would turn out but rumor has it Chairman Wayne Holland will nominate only the Obama candidates for the position.

More to come with at-large delegates tomorrow.

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Insider And Opposition Parties In The Utah Legislature

Most roll call votes in the Utah legislature are unanimous. Votes are held for show on easy issues while our representatives chat with each other and lobbyists. That’s okay — it’s their job.

But on the controversial votes where not everyone is automatically voting aye, there are distinct patterns by party. Republicans are in charge of the leadership and they use the Rules committees to bring only their favorite bills to the floor. Democrats’ bills are shut out.

Let’s take a look at how hard it is to be a Democrat. Happier legislators will have more bills they can votes aye on and fewer bills they have to vote against.

Democrats Republicans
Year Body Total Ayes Total Nays Ratio Total Ayes Total Nays Ratio
2007 House 3186 1408 69% 10405 1895 85%
2007 Senate 1252 393 76% 3468 584 86%
2008 House 3096 1105 74% 9569 1717 85%
2008 Senate 1138 444 72% 3330 522 86%

The values count every vote cast by every legislator in each party through the General Session in a roll call on a bill that was not unanimous.  The ratio is the proportion of yea votes out of all aye and nay votes;  absences are not counted.

It looks like being a Republican in the Utah legislature is between 10% and 20% better than being a Democrat.  That is the additional proportion of all controversial bills that appeal to Republicans over the ones that Democrats can support.

It’s a big difference, but it could be worse.

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Rebecca Walsh Link

Thanks to Rebecca Walsh of the Salt Lake Tribune for the link to Brian’s Utah Weblog. She noted my ratings of the partisanship of the Utah legislature these past few sessions. Here are a few links to those posts.

Notice that, as I was quoted saying, the Democrats are consistently more Democratic than the Republicans. Even Karen Morgan is more Democratic than Kory Holdaway. (Good news for Representative Holdaway, though; he’s often more than 50% Democratic.)

There’s an explanation of the methodology here.

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Salt Lake County Democratic Convention

Lots of fun was had at the Salt Lake County Democratic convention.

Turnout was good. Lots of candidates for national delegate positions were working the halls to build up support. They’ll be chosen in two weeks. The women candidates for Obama delegate from District 2 are working especially hard. There are almost thirty candidates for just two spots in Denver. Other delegate spots are also seeing heavy competition.

We have a very strong slate in the south end of Salt Lake Valley this year persuading the reddest part of the county to elect better government. Jay Seegmiller, Trish Beck, Karen Morgan, Laura Black, Lisa Johnson, Roger Harding, and Dave Hogue along with others I’m sure I haven’t remembered make a strong ticket. I had the chance to talk to a few of them. If you’re in the south half of the valley, get out to meet and campaign with these folks.

I was disappointed I didn’t manage to meet Hogue. He’s a former legislator who switched parties without, according to his position paper I collected, changing many issue positions. It will be very interesting to see how the race and his subsequent service turns out.

The big excitement was in Senate District One where incumbent Senator Fred Fife was replaced on our ticket by Luz Robles. Luz is going to have to keep up the level of energy and motivation she has inspired among the delegates to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Fife won the seat in a close race against a tough Republican incumbent in 2004 and, although the district leans Democratic, it won’t be easy to hold.

She has drawn the toughest possible opponent she could face in November in Republican city councilman Carlton Christensen. Christensen represents one of the most Democratic neighborhoods in the district, one of the most Democratic neighborhoods anywhere in Utah. That means Christensen will already have a big piece of Robles’s base. I look forward to seeing her win the voters’ support.

Robles To Fife
Declaring unity after the vote, here is a snapshot of future senator Luz Robles, Senator Gene Davis, Senator Ross Romero, Angela Romero, and Senator Fred Fife. Fife is promising here to work with us to elect Robles.

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What To Watch For At The Democratic Convention

The Salt Lake County Democratic Convention is tomorrow at 1:00 pm at Jordan High School.  There will be the usual business and speeches.  A new chair will be appointed, almost certainly Vice Chair Weston Clark.  A new vice chair to take his position will be appointed to take his place, if necessary.

The real excitement will take place in two parts.  The issue caucuses will convene at 1:30pm.  Candidates will visit them in turn, giving speeches and answering questions for small groups of people about the issues.

Then, after the activity in the big convention room, the district nominating caucuses will convene and several will be competitive.  House district 22 will see a new representative elected.  Incumbent Carl Duckworth is retiring but his wife is seeking the seat.  Progressive Democrat Greg Schulz, who almost forced a primary in this district against the incumbent last cycle, is running again.  And William Brandt Goble is also running.  Meanwhile the Republican candidate who almost beat Duckworth in 2006 has dropped out for family reasons.  This should be very interesting.

After that, Senate district 1 will be a race between incumbent Fred Fife and challenger Luz Robles.  This area has seen controversy and close primaries ever since the passing of the late great Pete Suazo.  I know both candidates would prefer to win at convention, but the area has a very disappointing trend of miserable Democratic primary turnout and we might benefit from another chance to turn it around.  Certainly, bringing out the Democrats will be necessary in November against the formidable Republican City Councilman Carlton Christensen.

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Utah's Final Superdelegate Could Reverse The Will Of The Voters

Democratic National Convention delegates fall into many categories — DNC members, pledged and unpledged elected officials, pledged district and at large delegates, alternates, and add-on delegates. Nearly the last of these to be picked in most states are the add-on delegates. Intended to give statewide winners a boost and balance affirmative action goals, the add-on delegates are chosen by different methods in each state. Some states allow the Democratic Party executive committee to choose them while others defer to the body of state delegates or central committee. In Utah we used to allow the party chair to hand pick our single add-on delegate all by himself.

This year we are doing something different. The district level delegates are choosing our add-on at the state convention on May 9th. Last week a similar process led to serious problems in D.C.

Add-on delegates are technically superdelegates and therefore not required to pledge support to any candidate or to make any effort to follow the returns of primaries in their states or districts.

The District Of Columbia Democratic Party was assigned two add-on delegates. The overwhelming majority of the Democratic State [sic] Committee, who choose the add-ons, favor Obama as did three fourths of primary voters in D.C. But dozens of Obama supporters signed up to run while many fewer Clinton supporters were set to divide up the votes of Clinton backers on the committee. The Obama campaign made an effort to pick just two, but couldn’t persuade enough candidates to drop out. In the end there were seven Obama candidates and two Clinton candidates. City Councilwoman and Obama supporter Yvette Alexander was elected but City Councilman and Clinton supporter Harry Thomas, Jr. managed to slip in past a divided Obama field by two votes.

Now Utah is facing the same situation.

Our district level delegates will be pledged to Obama 9-6 and they are the ones who will be caucusing to select the add-on. The caucus will take place after district delegates are elected but before pledged PLEO delegates are chosen on the evening of May 9th. But today’s list of candidates who have filed for the add-on slot (rules require it be a woman to balance the additional male pledged delegate):

  • County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (Clinton)
  • Former State Party Treasurer Lisa Allcott (Clinton)
  • Laura Arellano (Clinton)
  • Judy Barnett (Clinton)
  • Connie Nielson (Clinton)
  • Lisa Wharton (Clinton)
  • Senator Patricia Jones (Obama)
  • Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini (Obama)
  • Former State Party Chair Meghan Holbrook (Obama)
  • Former Salt Lake Party Chair Megan Risbon (Obama)
  • Lisa Ashman (Obama)
  • Beth Holbrook (Obama)
  • Tania Knauer (Obama)
  • Jan Lovett (Obama)
  • Jacqueline Orton (Obama)
  • Gail M. Turpin (Obama)
  • Josie Valdez (Obama)

Six Clinton and eleven Obama candidates. It’s worse than that, however. Jenny Wilson is justly popular for her work on her county council, was a close candidate for Salt Lake City mayor last year, and already represents about three fourths of the delegates that will be voting for the district delegate slot she is also running for. Wilson is likely to already be a delegate before the caucus to pick the add-on starts. The others are also running for other delegate slots but may or may not be picked for them.

The most likely field will have eight or nine Obama candidates running against four or five Clinton candidates. It’s fairly likely that smart and hardworking activist Lisa Allcott will be able to consolidate the Clinton support. I’ve seen her work on campaigns and she has the ability to do it. Meanwhile serious heavyweights like Pat Jones, Meghan Holbrook, nearly-state-party chair Jan Lovett, Megan Risbon, and others may be splitting the Obama votes. All it will take is some division in choice between the pledged Obama delegates to give Clinton a good chance at a big pickup in Utah on May 9th.

It’s just one more great reason to attend the Utah Democratic State Convention May 9th and 10th at the Cal Rampton Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City. Both delegates and citizen-spectators are welcome. There’s no announcement online yet. Call (801) 328-1212 for information. Your county convention makes great weekend fun, too.

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Community Council Discusses Why Your Taxes Are About To Rise

I enjoyed another informative community council meeting tonight. If you’re in Salt Lake City or another city around Utah with community councils, you should go to your meetings, too. Salt Lake County has them in unincorporated areas, also.

My local council is Liberty-Wells and we did our usual business talking about grants, sidewalk repairs, neighborhood projects, emergency preparedness, law enforcement, and the like. Senator Scott McCoy (D-SLC) came, as he often does. We asked him about the school funding ‘equalization’ passed by the legislature that is going to cost Salt Lake Citizens $6 million this year and every year from now on — a permanent $50 annual tax increase on each home in the city.

Scott pointed to the Jordan split as the root cause why the suburbs managed to rob us for so much this year. Former councilman Dave Buhler once said it was like our neighbors getting a divorce and the judge ordering us to pay alimony to both of them.

There was one interesting point made by Senator McCoy at the meeting. Of the eleven senators representing Salt Lake County where the ‘equalization’ is happening SB 48 failed by 8-4. It was the rest of the Senate that absconded with our tax money (and not the the first time in the latest session, either). The Utah House saw a similar breakdown. This bill accounted for four of the partisan votes I cataloged earlier, and is typical of them.

Senators who represent Salt Lake County are in bold.


  • Bell
  • Eastman
  • Madsen
  • Van Tassell
  • Bramble
  • Greiner
  • Niederhauser
  • Walker
  • Buttars
  • Hickman
  • Peterson
  • Valentine
  • Christensen
  • Jenkins
  • Stephenson
  • Dayton
  • Knudson
  • Stowell


  • Davis
  • Goodfellow
  • McCoy
  • Dmitrich
  • Jones
  • Romero
  • Fife
  • Mayne
  • Waddoups


  • Hillyard
  • Killpack

Contact the Utah Senate or House.

Update: I missed highlighting Senator Carlene Walker last night in a fit of optimism.  Go Karen Morgan.

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DNCC Comes To Town

The DNCC came to Salt Lake City to make us feel involved in the nominating convention in Denver coming up in August.

Becker at DNCC

The event was at 11:00 AM on Friday but even so turnout was suspiciously packed with elected officials.  I counted two mayors and at least a dozen Utah Senators and Representatives along with three superdelegates sitting around the room.  Convention CEO Leah Daughtry came to town to make the presentation and I believe she’s a superdelegate, too, but not a Utahn so I’m not including her.  I wonder if all those officials are planning on running to be delegates to the convention.

Mayor Becker gave a wonderful speech about the evolution of progressive value in the western states and invited Denver conventioneers to come to Salt Lake to see a real mountain city, as long as they’re in the region.

A nice little event, but if the convention really wants to involve the people of the region, they need to run their meetings at an hour when people can come who aren’t just independent professionals, party functionaries, and elected officials.

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Graphical Analysis Of The 2008 Utah Senate

Here’s a new tool I’ve been working on for data analysis stuffed full of political intrigue.

This is a chart of the 2008 Utah Senate. Each senator attracts the others based on how often the two agreed on non-unanimous roll call votes on bills in the 2008 General Session. If any two get too close on the chart compared to their voting behavior, they start to repel each other. Party and partisan affiliation are ignored except to color the squares.

I find it astonishing how stable the final results are. Margaret Dayton (R-Provo), Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), and Mark Madsen (R-Lehi) always drop out into the reptilian reactionary tail while Scott McCoy (D-SLC) and Ross Romero (D-SLC) elevate the progressive head of the body. Peter Knudsen (R-Brigham City) and Kevin Van Tassell (R-Vernal) sit in between the main body of Republicans and the Democrats.

See if you can make them match the seating chart like I did. Try dragging Romero into the middle of the Republicans and watch them part like the Red Sea. See if you can balance Margaret Dayton between Romero and McCoy so that she can’t go either way and gets stuck in an unstable equilibrium among the Democrats. Or just hit reset and watch how stable the results are.

Remember, I didn’t program any fixed end state into this chart. The patterns you find are the result of actual roll call behavior and a simple rule that draws closer senators who agree on each vote. If Mark Madsen always ends up in the same place on your chart, that’s his choice and not mine.

Click start to begin the simulation.

Note that this is an extract from a beta version of some new visualization tools and you can probably crash it. Also, unlike the rest of this site which is available under a Creative Commons license this post and the scripts and technologies used to build it are ©2008 Brian Earl Watkins all rights reserved and not available for Creative Commons licensing.

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How To Appoint Yourself A Pet Legislator

In 2006 Rep. Jeff Alexander (R-Provo) decided to retire. But he made the decision after the filing deadline so there was no other Republican to run for his seat. He left his name on the ballot and, since they haven’t figured out how to elect Democrats in Utah County yet, won. Then he promptly resigned.

When a seat is empty in the Utah legislature, the governor appoints a replacement. The parties and lawmakers have tied his hands to that he can only appoint the nominee of the party whose candidate won the most recent election. So it was to be the Republican party that chose a successor.

The delegates convened in January 2007 and voted for John Curtis by one vote over Chris Herrod. But there was a suspicious mix up in the bylaws of the already ethically dubious Utah County Republican Party. The rules had never been updated to reflect the governor’s limited discretion. So both names were submitted to the state party. Republican acting state chair Enid Greene, who previously resigned from Congress in disgrace after numerous election law violations, picked the candidate who won the smaller amount of votes, Herrod.

It is unknown what might have animated her decision. Curtis had shown an independent-minded streak once flirting with the idea of organizing an ultraconservative wing of the Democratic party just to offer some competition in Utah county. Did Herrod display some sort of blindly loyal herd behavior by contrast? Let’s take a look.

In 2005 and 2006 Rep. Jeff Alexander showed moderate independence by voting 21% and 25% Democratic in partisan votes. Rep. Herrod, representing the same district, scored only 2% and 5% in 2007 and 2008. Herrod earned the very lowest score in the entire Utah House in his first session.

Apparently Ms. Greene knows how to pick them.

(Yes, it is the Brian’s Utah Weblog policy to consider high Democratic ratings a sign of wisdom and independence while very low Democratic ratings are a sign of slavish obedience to pernicious authority. That would be inconsistent only if the Republicans were not so often wrong on the issues.)

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