Hundreds of Tooele County Republicans filled school rooms, public buildings, and living rooms last Thursday to select delegates that may determine who will carry their party’s banner in this fall’s general election.
Tooele County Republican Party Chairman Erik Gumbrecht was pleased with the turn out, even though it was lower than the record turn out for the 2012 presidential election year caucus meetings.
“Attendance numbers are not yet in, but state-wide numbers are down from the previous caucus, during Romney’s presidential run,” he said. “We were very pleased and impressed with the crowd that showed up to engage in the political process.”
Gumbrecht described the voters that showed up for the caucus meetings as engaged and well versed in local issues.
“Popular issues discussed at the caucus meeting were relocation of Stericycle, job creation, Common Core, candidates for county commissioner, candidates for Sheriff, and what effects may occur due to changes in the caucus system,” he said.
The high turnout for caucus meetings in 2012 lead to complaints about long meetings, short of seating, and lengthy balloting, according to Gumbrecht.
These issues were resolved in 2014 by booking venues with plenty of seating and a new method of balloting called instant run-off voting or IRV.
In IRV each voter ranks all of the candidates in order of preference. It prevented the need to cast multiple ballots in a series of run off votes to determine winners.
Votes were tallied as if they were multiple rounds. This allows one round of voting and speeches instead of several, shortening the length of caucus meetings, according to Gumbrecht.
He is looking forward to the April 18 Tooele County Republican party county convention, even though the large number of Republican candidates, including four candidates for each county commission seat, has the potential of creating a divisive meeting.
“To see so many citizens stepping up and wanting to make Tooele better is fantastic,” Gumbrecht said. “I have no doubt the end result will be two extremely capable commission candidates vetted and ready to serve the people of this county.”
The grass roots base of the caucus meetings are empowering, according to Gumbrecht, who recalls his start in local politics after being elected a precinct chairman at a caucus meeting.
“The neighborhood elections create experiences for individuals that they will remember for a lifetime,” he said. “I got my first start being elected as a precinct chair, so when I hear folks say they feel like they really made a difference by participating in their neighborhood caucus, it makes it all worth it.”