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Front Page » May 21, 2002 » Opinion » Lessons learned from state convention
Published 4,884 days ago

Lessons learned from state convention

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Staff reporter

There I sat with three thousand people in a crammed auditorium in northern Utah. It was a state political convention, something I hadn't experienced since I was 20 years old.

And it hadn't changed much.

I had spent the night at my fathers the night before so I didn't have to drive all the way from Carbon County that morning. The agenda said it started at 8 a.m. As I drove toward the location I noticed that there were large numbers of campaign signs hanging from overpasses along the way. A steady rain had begun. I wasn't sure what that water out of the sky was since it had been so long since I had actually seen any.

Close to my destination, my more primal side took over and it demanded I stop at Denny's for breakfast. I spent about a half an hour in the restaurant, looking at a daily and listening to my waitress flirting with some guy at the bar.

A few minutes later I was out of the diner and on my way to my destination. I knew where I was going, but I couldn't have missed it if I hadn't. Roy High School was covered with signs, up and down and left and right. Huge tents were erected at one of the back entrances.

As I walked up to the doors I was accosted by a number of people asking me to vote for their candidate. I just played along; I wouldn't be able to vote for anyone, being from the second district. We already had our candidate.

Upon entering the building I was almost knocked down by frantic campaign workers for various candidates scurrying around, shuttling boxes of materials or hand carts loaded with literature to their booths.

I finally found the registration area, which was already crowded by 7:40, but I was told by the "R-S-T" registrar that I couldn't get a badge and my materials until 8 a.m. I stood in the hall looking for someone I knew, waiting until I could officially become a delegate.

But I saw no one. Hadn't anyone else from Carbon County come to this? Was I the only one?

I finally did run into someone I knew, but not from the political arena. It was a maintenance supervisor for Weber School District who was working the event. I met him a few years ago when I had my own business and had done some work with the district. He was trying to put some toilet paper in a womens rest room that was on the main floor because it was out of tissue. Yet the women wouldn't give him enough time to get in and stock it.

Within a few minutes I stood in front of the door of the womens room fending off excited females and guiding them to other rest rooms while he worked inside. He came out and it was finally time for me register too. I bid adieu to him.

It was now time for caucus'. For those not in the know a caucus is basically a meeting held before the main convention by special interest groups or organizations to allow candidates for office to come to their rooms and speak to the issues they and the group think are important.

There are a lot of preliminary caucus' at a convention. If a person has an interest it is there. I chose two that I thought would be interesting. I intended to spend about an hour in each before the general session began at 10 a.m.

The first was the environmental caucus. To a certain point I had always kind of considered myself to be a kind of environmentalist. I mean I like the outdoors and I don't want everything run over by progress.

I was in for a rude awakening however. There are environmentalists and then there are environmentalists. It was like when I used to think of myself as a liberal. Then I met someone from Massachusetts who called themselves a liberal.

That's when I found I wasn't a liberal at all. On this day I found out I wasn't and environmentalist either.

They asked each of us where we were from. Most were from the Wasatch Front. A couple were from Box Elder County and one was from Iron County. When I told them I was from Carbon County, the discussion leader told me he was glad to hear there were some environmentalists living in Price. Some of the people in the room looked at me like I was some kind of spy or something.

As the candidates came in and started to discuss issues, the members of the audiences started asking questions about fossil fuels and making comments about how we should shut down our reliance on coal. They began screaming about ATV's and snowmobiles.

One woman stood up to defend the use of snowmobiles in designated areas and I thought the guy in front of her was going to turn around and commit murder. He attacked her every way he could without physical violence even though she had just mentioned the word "multiple use."

I had visions of her swinging from a rope attached to the fluorescent light fixture above with me right along side her. In between two of the candidates speeches I walked up to her and asked if she felt safe. I could feel myself becoming a pariah in the room for just talking with her.

We left quietly while the next candidate was trying to answer a question about what he was going to do to protect the hooked mouthed snoop that only exists on a peak in the Stansbury Range.

We parted ways, as she thanked me for saving her. I told her I was no hero; I just thought there might be a better chance of me getting out of the room alive if there were two of us.

The next meeting I went to was the rural caucus. Now I was more with my own kind. Even if I didn't agree with everything they were saying, no rural democrat would kill another because there are so few of us out there in the hinterlands of Utah.

What was most entertaining about this caucus was that the same candidates that had spoke so vehemently about protecting every blade of grass in the environmental caucus, were now expousing the virtues of rural growth and bringing more large "industries" to rural areas.

One guy, who was obviously a city boy, told us how he related to rural Utah because each summer when he was a kid he spent a week on his uncles dairy farm in some unspecified place.

I generally don't get to see politicians speaking out of both sides of their mouths within the same hour, but on this day I did. It was a rare experience.

Later, in that auditorium, I saw speeches and demonstrations for the various candidates. Of course I couldn't vote, so it was really quite amusing.

I learned a lot of lessons that day. I learned, or should I say relearned, that even people in one party have many kinds of agendas, some of which are at odds with one another.

I also learned that the guys with the most signs win elections.

And most importantly I learned to never, never again stand in front of a womens rest rooms and utter the words, "Sorry it's out of order."

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May 21, 2002
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