Utah Sen. Mike Lee is a rockstar in the conservative movement, so he should be totally safe in a historically red state — shouldn't he? That may not be the case this year as the establishment wing of the Republican Party would love nothing more than to find a way to unseat the senior Senator. Also, Utah is no longer the deep-red state that many hoped and claimed it to be. A lot of money and resources have been funneled the way of the challengers, most notably to the daughter-in-law of BYU football coaching legend LaVell Edwards.
Becky Edwards has served for a decade as a state rep. and this race is in no way a given. She represents a small but growing faction of the Republican Party and many social media influencers have urged their followers to change their registration from Democrat to Republican in order to unseat Sen. Lee.
One thing the incumbent has going for him (besides being one of the most conservative members of the Senate), is the system by which the party chooses its candidate. Utah has a unique method that some may not be too familiar with so here is a brief rundown of how it works and why it puts a little more wind in the sails of Sen. Lee's campaign.
First, it is not an out-and-out primary like most states. To put it simply, it is modeled after the representative republic that governs the country. Just like we elect our representatives to fight for our ideals and values on our behalf, delegates are elected via hand-written paper ballots and those delegates attend the state convention and cast their ballots for the candidate the people of their precinct support.
If any candidate receives 60% +1 of the delegates' vote, they are selected as the party's candidate for the general election right then and there, avoiding a primary altogether. If there is not a clear winner, there is a run-off of sorts and the top two candidates move on to the general primary in June. If that's clear as mud, here are a couple of resources for you to read up on.
"It's an incredible way to get those who are most passionate about their communities to get together and choose the candidate for their party who most closely represents their views," Sen. Lee said. "It's a truly decentralized way to trust and empower the voters."
"It's a truly decentralized way to trust and empower the voters," Sen. Mike Lee said.
The process sounds complicated but if you've never experienced a caucus, it really is a fascinating peek into how our system operates. Since I'm a constituent of Sen. Lee and a resident of Utah, I took my pen and paper and took some notes to let you in on the process to see how the sausage is made in Utah elections.
6:33 pm: The registration portion was scheduled from 6-7 pm at the local elementary school and my wife and I are two of the first three people to walk in the door. All is dark and the doors are locked for the room where we are supposed to meet.
6:55 pm: The first of the organizers arrives and unlocks the doors. Tables are set up for registration as a few more people straggle in.
*We later found out we are a new precinct and had yet to elect leadership, so the show was run by volunteers who graciously accepted the call to serve.
6:57 pm: One of the party officials who is running the registration had an interesting interaction with a voter.
"Oops, you probably need to see my id."
"I mean, I'm happy to look at it, and it is in the rules, but I mean..."
*Both parties were older white males, so don't worry—it wasn't racist in any way to ask or to not look.
7:15 pm: We are just about to get started and we topped out at 15 total in attendance for our precinct. Though our numbers may be few, we are a passionate and well-informed bunch. Aside from the topic of the Senate race, the one sentiment that was made clear was that many if not most considered themselves very conservative, but for the most part, they were not fans of President Trump. Many expressed the hopes that he does not run and allows a well-developed stable of candidates to have a crack at it.
7:45 pm: Those throwing their hats in the ring give their mini stump speech about who they'd vote for and why. Most arguments against Sen. Lee appear to be more of an emotional plea or petty grievances, lacking in details. One constituent didn't care for Sen. Lee much in the way President Trump's detractors did not care for him, in the form of mean tweets of sorts. If you know anything about Sen. Lee, your imagination must be running wild at what he possibly could have said. Check it out for yourself and see just how mean the good Senator can be. He must be doing something right, he has passionate support among the vast majority in attendance.
8:12 pm: All votes have been tallied and we have a new precinct chair. If his shirt has anything to do with it, I think we'll be in good hands with this BYU law student.
8:15 pm: The show is over and there are no cookies to be found anywhere. This travesty could only ever be overlooked in lieu of Built Bars, but alas...
As you can see, it only takes the actions of a few to make a dramatic impact on your state — so get to work!