With national races making headlines, the local political arena is often brushed under the rug. But races for city council seats, mayors and state representatives are some of the most important ways to be involved, said Salt Lake County Democrat chairwoman Mary Bishop.
The local races often affect the most basic day-to-day operations of Utahns and voicing an opinion in the caucuses is one of the most effective ways of letting elected representatives know which issues are most important, she said.
A caucus is a gathering of members of each political party. Held annually, party issues are discussed and candidates for election are chosen. The neighborhood caucuses are divided by legislative districts and for information about how to find which district and caucus to attend, visit the county party’s website.
At the neighborhood caucuses, which will be held on March 13 for Democrats and March 15 for Republicans, party members are welcome to attend and voice opinions. Delegates will be selected at the meetings who then will attend the state party convention in the spring to select representation by both parties in state and national races.
There is an inherit danger within the system because those that are most politically active and the most extreme ideologues can take over the party, Bishop said.
“We’ve seen it with the ousting of former Gov. Olene Walker and Sen. Bob Bennett on the Republican side. The extreme Republicans who don’t represent the state’s views attend the meetings and really take over,” she said.
The best way for the caucus system to function well and represent the majority of Utahns is through large participation, she said.
“It’s really a great way to get involved and see politics at its very grassroots level,” Bishop said. “You’ll meet candidates for races and have the chance to voice your concerns. You can let them know what is most important to you and tell them what issues you want them to work on if elected.”
Despite a highly contentious redistricting effort that was spearheaded by Republicans in the Legislature, the Democrats are very optimistic and see various races where they can win, and win big.
One of the biggest races to watch is the Salt Lake County mayoral race, Bishop said. Current Mayor Peter Corroon, a Democrat, is not seeking reelection and two Democrats, Sens. Ben McAdams and Ross Romero, are seeking their party’s nomination to face-off against the Republican candidate. Currently West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, County Councilman Richard Snelgrove, former County Councilman Mark Crockett and County Recorder Gary Ott have all announced their candidacy for Salt Lake County mayor.
“Both our Democratic candidates, whoever ends up being nominated, offer so much more than any candidate the Republicans can nominate,” Bishop said. “We’re going to keep that seat and we’ll be gaining ground in the Utah Legislature, especially the House.”
The Democratic Party is energized and looking forward to wins in areas such as the 2nd District House race with Jim Matheson, Bishop said.
“This is Matheson’s first time in this district and we think we can really make an impact in the area. We’re going to make some serious ground this November,” Bishop said. “But it starts in March and everyone really needs to participate. Get out to your caucus, Democrat or Republican, and let them know what issues are important to you.”
To find your precinct caucus location, go to http://vote.utah.gov/caucus/