Two events are happening this Saturday that are of critical importance to all of Utah's citizens: the Republican and Democratic state conventions. Because of Utah's unique election system, almost all of the candidates appearing on your ballot this November will be chosen by delegates to those conventions.
When you cast your ballot in the general election, your sacred duty as an American citizen requires you to carefully examine each candidate separately and cast your ballot for the one who will best represent you. However, in preparation for the November election, it's useful to examine the views of those delegates who will be selecting the candidates on the ballot. Those delegates will likely choose those who most represent their values.
KSL sponsored a Dan Jones poll last week on the issues that Republican and Democratic delegates felt were most important for our state. This was a great public service, because it helps the voter understand what is on the minds of those who are selecting candidates for the general election.
According to the poll the following were the top five issues for Republican delegates, in order of importance: states' rights, business-friendly economy, gun rights, mining/grazing on federal land and illegal immigration. The top five Democratic issues were: public education, ethics reform, expansion of health care coverage, lower health care costs and reducing pollution.
It's important to point out that delegates of both parties support all ten of these issues. Every Republican I know supports public education, and every Democrat I know believes in protecting states' rights. It's also important to highlight what is absent in the survey. Contrary to popular belief, the top five Democratic issues include neither support of gay marriage nor legalization of abortion.
What the survey does indicate is a sense of priority. Especially with our citizen legislature, time is precious and resources are scarce. Our elected officials should be spending their time on the issues of greatest importance.
As an example, consider the issue of gun rights. I am reminded of the massive sales of guns and ammunition after the last election, because of the rumor that Obama was going to take away our guns. That didn't happen, but apparently Republican delegates believe the threat is still there. If you agree, you should probably vote Republican. However, if you are a gun owner who is comfortable with the status quo on gun laws, and don't see any sign of an anti-gun crusade in Obama's agenda (or at least respect his intelligence enough to realize he wouldn't commit political suicide by such a move), you would want to elect someone with different priorities.
As Westerners, I think all Utahns are jealous of states' rights. Having said that, nothing makes me angrier than when different levels of government spend our precious tax dollars in the courts suing each other.
I believe the correct policy is to work with our elected congressional representatives to ensure Utah's rights are respected. If you disagree with me on this -- if you support the Legislature passing laws that are designed to get Utah into the courts fighting the federal government -- you probably should vote Republican.
The Republican delegates want Utah to be friendly to business. Democratic delegates couldn't agree more. The difference is that Democrats believe the main reason business thrives in Utah is because of the quality of our workforce -- an advantage that is at serious risk because of the gutting of support for public education. Hence the issue that always ranks first with Democrats: Support for our system of public education and our state colleges and universities.
It's also not surprising that Democratic delegates are concerned about the availability and cost of health care. However, one should not confuse passion on this issue with agreement on the health care reform legislation that recently passed in Congress. There are differing opinions about what the solutions should be, but Democrats are in agreement that health care cost and availability is a serious issue that needs to be resolved.
I certainly don't claim to be neutral in this discussion, but when comparing the top five of each group, it appears that the issues the Democratic delegates are most concerned about have the most impact on the average citizen in the Top of Utah. They are all important, but in a season of limited resources, where should our priorities be? The top concerns of these delegates should give a pretty good clue on the views of the candidates they will select this Saturday.
Olsen is the chairman of Weber Democrats.