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Let’s convene a caucus in March

By Val Hale And Donna Milakovic - | Feb 27, 2014

Donna: It seems like Val and I keep blowing the trumpet of political involvement. That is not going to change this week. We need to share some of our reasons why each of you readers should get involved with your local caucus in March. Regardless of your party affiliation, or perhaps lack thereof, your neighbors who are aligned with a party will be meeting in March and will be selecting representatives who will determine the candidates on the November ballot.

There are some essential races happening in Utah County. The 4th District Congressional race will be run without an incumbent this year. There are two county commissioner seats up for re-election, one open and one with an incumbent running. The office of County Auditor and many more will be decided this election cycle, and while it is not likely that we will have many commercials aired with combative language over the County Auditor seat, that position is vital to the prosperity of our county.

I am the first one to say that attending a meeting, in my case on March 20 in the evening, is the last thing on my wish list for Thursday night activities. However, because of my experience in the political realm and the decisions I have seen, I will be there running for a chance to represent my neighborhood. Those of us getting out and spending the time to know what the candidates are all about and voting for our top picks will also have a front row seat in the battle of Count My Vote vs. Caucus/Convention System.

Voting for our elected officials is a privilege in our nation and one that many have died for. I am proud to put aside my druthers and participate in the process. If you don’t want to be a delegate, that’s fine. If you don’t have an affiliation to a party, that’s fine. You can still talk to your neighbors who are delegates and encourage those you know and trust to represent you. This is the closest some of us will ever get to running for office outside of student body president. Make a poster. Send a letter. Look up the candidates running for office. Be involved and engaged. Bad things happen when ordinary citizens abdicate their power to have a voice.

Now for the Republicans out there, this year’s caucus meeting on March 20 will be different than ever before. You can vote ahead of time. It requires some effort to get your vote to the meeting and you won’t be there to know if someone fabulous gets nominated the night of the meeting, but it is a beginning. Find out what your rules are and participate in selecting representatives.

Val: You may have heard the saying: “The world is run by those who show up.” That is especially true in Utah politics. Too often in the past, few people showed up to the caucus meetings, allowing those who did attend to take control of the state’s political agenda. Two years ago, spurred by some high-profile races and encouragement by LDS Church leaders, a large caucus turnout produced delegates more representative of the average citizen than had typically been the case.

This year we lack some of the high-profile state-wide races, but it is critical that people once again turn out in large numbers to assure that the delegates elected are representative of a majority of people in the precinct.

I became politically active about a dozen years ago. The second time I attended a caucus meeting, I was elected to be a county delegate. I went to the County Convention with a great deal of excitement. I have lived in Utah Valley most of my life and, because of the high-profile jobs I have had, I probably know as many Utah County residents as just about anybody.

When I got to the convention, I felt a lot like Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: A New Hope” where he walks into the cantina on Mos Eisley and sees all kinds of strange creatures walking around. I felt very uncomfortable because most of the people in that meeting were not like the Utah County residents I knew. Missing for the most part were business, community and religious leaders, the type of people I had expected to see there. In fact, I kept wondering who had elected these people, most of whom had much more radical political philosophies than the “average” Utah County person. I kept thinking to myself, “These delegates are the people electing our government leaders.”

For me, that was a political “ah-ha” moment. I suddenly understood why the caucuses were so important and why people in each precinct should be very selective about whom they choose as delegates. Instead of merely defaulting to the person who makes the most noise or seems the most conversant with political issues, caucus-goers should focus on electing “normal” folks whose views are representative of the neighborhood.

I came home from that convention with a resolve to do my part to recruit reasonable people to run for delegate in our precinct. Ever since then, I have gone throughout our precinct looking for common-sense people. Most of them didn’t want the hassle of being a delegate at first, but I convinced them it was their duty to serve in that capacity. In nearly all cases, they served admirably.

With less than a month to go before the caucus meeting, I challenge you to consider running for delegate, even if you haven’t before. Or if you aren’t the running type, go out and recruit some good people. Our political process reflects the attitude and philosophies of our delegates. Don’t be intimidated by people who claim to be political experts or who may have been delegates for many years. If their views don’t represent your views and the views of most of your neighbors, you should vote to keep them out of the delegate position.

Be one who shows up at the caucus meeting so you can help “run the world.”

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