SALT LAKE CITY — Where is the ethical line drawn on Utah Democrats affiliating with the Republican Party in order to cast a vote to influence the GOP primary? Is it monkey-wrenching an election or is it OK because it’s within the rules?
Former Utah Republican Rep. Enid Mickelsen joined Amy Donaldson of the Deseret News and Dave Noriega to analyze the politics behind Democrats switching sides to vote in the recent GOP gubernatorial primary and the District 1 and 4 congressional races.
Donaldson affiliated with the Republican Party in January, she said, to participate in the June 30 primary for governor. She said she thought most of the moderate voters aren’t affiliated with either major party or are not participating in the primary elections.
“I believe people affiliated for this election because they saw it as a competitive race between factions of the Republican Party,” she said.
Even Greg Hughes, a candidate for governor of Utah, took note of voters switching affiliations to the GOP.
1/2 The Republican party in Utah is under attack. A former Democrat party Chairman and ultra-liberal State Senator is now a registered Republican – and it’s not because he suddenly became a fan of small government…https://t.co/aNhIHODyTw
— Greg Hughes for Governor 2020 (@GHughesUtah) May 27, 2020
No gaming the system
Mickelsen said she has “nothing but respect” for voters like Donaldson who do their research into the candidates and issues and affiliate with a party long before Election Day.
“You didn’t switch from Democrat to Republican at the last minute to try to make a strategic vote,” Mickelsen said. “Gaming the system is not something we should encourage.
“I think there ought to be some kind of time limit where are you can’t change your affiliation within the last 10 days. I would push it out further than that. I would say two months because then you’re not gonna have such a disproportionate impact on the race. . . If you got a flood of people coming in at the end because they want to game the system, that’s something I have a problem with,” Mickelsen said.
“That’s where it really feels unethical for me,” Dave said. “My philosophy is Republicans, you put up your candidate. Democrats, you put up yours, and then we’ll have our choice. When you’re trying to sabotage each other . . . listen, politics is bad enough, I mean it’s dirty enough . . .that just seems so wrong to me.”
“I want the best candidate that each party can put up. I’ve split my ticket at times over the years where I have not felt comfortable with the Republican candidate. In those situations, I want the Democrats to put up the best candidate they can put up,” Mickelsen said.
“Frankly, the Utah Democratic Party in the last few years hasn’t always done that. They’ve put up statement candidates. They’re not going to get over 20 percent of the vote because that’s the base vote of the Democratic Party in the state of Utah,” she continued.
GOP primary is the deciding contest
Donaldson said the best Democratic candidates won’t run because they don’t have anyway of winning. She said the races in Utah are decided in the GOP primary, and those are closed to voters not affiliated with the Republican Party, including Democrats.
“So if you want to participate, you have to affiliate,” Donaldson said.
“I agree with you, but let’s look at what the root of the problem is. The real root of the problem is the Democratic Party in Utah puts up extreme candidates for the most part,” Mickelsen said.
“I think the real issue is we have two parties,” Donaldson said. “We have a much wider, diverse belief system. There’s some real interesting political views out there that don’t get represented because we have two parties that are playing to their extreme ends.”
“You and I are going to have to agree to disagree on that because I think the two-party system has served the country well — most of the time,” Mickelsen said. “What’s happened now though is, for example, these congressional seats. There are so few swing districts left. Most districts, if you win the primary, whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, you’ve won that seat. And that’s not healthy.”
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