SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – They support police reform, LGBTQ rights and the expansion of Medicaid. But in deeply conservative Utah, thousands of liberal-minded voters register as Republicans because they say it’s the only way to have a political voice in a key election next week.
The state’s June 30 primary will decide on the Republican candidate for the first open governor race in more than a decade. In a state that has not elected a democratic governor for more than 40 years, the GOP candidate is an almost certain winner.
Utah’s outnumbered Democrats say they have found things that appeal to GOP candidates for governor while Republican President Donald Trump plays on a deeply conservative basis at the national level. They support moderate candidates and hope their vote could help their problems gain ground.
With four candidates still in the running, the primary could be close. Democratic voters like Marina Gomberg of Salt Lake City are not ready to enter the contest.
A press columnist who recounts his parental adventures with his wife, Gomberg wants to help protect recent gains for LGBTQ people in Utah, including banning so-called conversion therapy for minors.
“I am ready to change my affiliation in order to make the change I want to see,” she said. “If you want to participate in politics, you have to be in the Republican Party.”
The Democrats’ new Republican inscriptions reflect the dominance of the GOP in Utah politics and the policy areas where state leaders have given way, illustrating how the Utah bastion of conservatives is not always a fan Of the president.
Some top Utah Democrats have encouraged voters to register as Republicans to vote in the primary, which is closed to non-members. In just a few months, the number of registered Republicans has increased by almost 72,000 while the number of registered Democrats has decreased by 10,000. Unaffiliated voters have decreased by 45,000, according to state data.
“Voters will likely feel that if they do not weigh in on this choice, it may be too late to reach the general election,” said Chris Karpowitz, professor of political science at Brigham Young University.
The campaign of former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. has actively encouraged people to ensure that they are registered as Republicans, building on the great popularity he enjoyed when a previous visit to the governor’s mansion.
Gomberg, the voter in Salt Lake City, said she plans to vote for Huntsman, who has also been approved by the LGBT rights group Equality Utah. The group cited support for civil unions years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
Huntsman performs well in cross-voter surveys against the other main runner, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, who tends to do better among self-identified Republicans, but was once a rare GOP critic of the president.
Right-wing far-right candidate Greg Hughes, a staunch supporter of Trump, spoke out against the party change, saying the Democrats were joining the party to dampen its recent increase in polls.
“We are seeing a lot of cheeky behavior on all fronts,” he said in a recent debate.
Meanwhile, businessman Thomas Wright has sparked voter interest with police reform proposals as protests of police brutality sweep across the country following the death of George Floyd play a role unexpected in the race in Utah.
Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, co-founder of the community group Unified Allies 4 Change, said he was one of many Republican people of color to hold the next head of state responsible for dismantling systemic discrimination. He still decides between Huntsman and Wright.
“There are too many oppressed people in this country,” said Stewart-Johnson, who lives in the city of Provo. “There are too many reforms to change. We will not allow anyone to wait any longer to make this change. “
For party officials, the Democratic influence on the Republican primary is frustrating.
“I think it shows a lack of integrity,” said Utah Republican Party president Derek Brown.
He does not expect party changers to have a huge impact on the primary and sees a bright side in that some of the unaffiliated voters who register as Republicans can stay with his party.
“The water is warm and the tent is big enough for everyone,” he said.
Source: AP News