Michael Aaron

The Power of Precinct Caucuses

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Spring is in the air (do-do-do-do-doot-doot) and I couldn’t be happier. With spring comes warmer weather, longer days, flowers, hummingbirds, and no more legislative session. Back out on the deck nekkid with the morning coffee and newspaper. Oh .. TMI? Sorry.

But another duty arises in spring as well. It’s precinct caucus time, formerly known as mass meetings. I’m guessing that sounded too Catholic for our fellow Utahns so they changed the name.

Precinct caucuses are where 90 percent of the power to elect in this state comes from. Here’s how it works:

People of all persuasions from neighborhoods across the state meet on a late March Tuesday night (this year it’s March 25) and elect a precinct chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, and most importantly either one, two or three delegates. These delegates are tasked to go to the county and state party conventions in April and May to elect who will run for seats in the House and Senate districts. (They also vote for a bunch of other less meaningful positions, but stop quibbling.)

You probably know that in 90 percent of Utah’s districts, either a Republican or Democrat ends up winning the seat. It’s almost a sure thing, unless some heart-attack, scandal or “dark thing” slip of the tongue happens during the race. SO, let’s think about what that means.

In your neighborhood, you will vote for an average of two delegates. Those two delegates will meet with about 40 other delegates from neighboring precincts. You know, the people all in the same ward. Those 40 or so delegates will cast votes and have a 9-in-10 chance that person will sit in the leather chairs on Capitol Hill the following January.

Do you see the power in being one of those delegates? Do you see why Gayle Ruzicka, the AFL-CIO and Equality Utah work so hard to get you to go to your precinct caucus and run for delegate?

I used to be the chair of the Gay and Lesbian Utah Democrats, you know, back in the hey-day. We worked our asses off from Christmas to March 25th-ish to delegate credentials on gay and lesbian people in the state. We were made famous for our methods by none-other than Rod Decker, KUTV News. (I think he has legally changed his name to “Rod Decker KUTV News.” Have you ever heard him say just Rod?)

We postcarded and lettered and phone-called and cajoled and threatened and stalked and … well, let’s not get into the legal ramifications … to get people to run for delegate. And it worked. Our first year found a few dozen fabulous bleary-eyed people in our caucus room at eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday at Taylorsville High School. The second year, 60.

That year, we targeted an anti-gay Democratic house member in the Rose Park district … and won. Our hand-picked Pete Suazo marched right from the high school doors to the capitol building (kinda). What Republican would win in that district in the general election. SO here we were, about 20-strong in the district and we hand-chose who the representative would be. Do you not think this is how easy Gayle has it?

So, here is my call to anyone living within Chris Buttars’ Senate district: Get out to your precinct caucus and get elected as delegate. Do what it takes. Bring Mrs. Fields cookies. Green Jello. Whatever you think your neighbors would want to vote you in as delegate. My preference — go to the Republican caucus and vote in anyone but Buttars. You know a Republican will win the seat. Go work the system.

Did I just ask you to go against your principles and cross party lines?

Probably. Do I care? Not if it means ousting a dark, ugly thing.

It’s been said that watching politics is like watching sausage being made. It’s disgusting to see, but the outcome is quite tasty.

I have a taste for an anything-but-Buttars-burger. Don’t you?

p.s. Go vote for your favorite gay- and lesbian-friendly businesses and such on page 11 of the print issue or at qsaltlake.com

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