Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he would have preferred that Utah had held a presidential primary election instead of this week’s caucus voting, and he called for a return to the state-run primaries in the future. “It is kind of a good news, disappointing news scenario. The good news is we had great turnout to caucus night, which is good, and we need to have that continue,” he said during his monthly news conference on KUED Ch.7. But the governor said it was disappointing to find out that Tuesday’s turnout was down by “a significant amount” compared with the 2008 state-run presidential primary, nearly 200,000 voters. The drop from the most recent presidential primary with competitive races for both major parties came despite campaign stops this year by four of the five candidates and a record $1.6 million-plus in TV and radio commercials.
“We’ve seen what’s happened. We drove turnout. But we ought to drive turnout and have a presidential primary where we can have more people engaged and have more impact on the outcome,” Herbert said.
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said he still wants to see the party-run caucus voting for presidential candidates in Utah continue. Evans said the decision is up to the party, not the state. “At the end of the day, this is for the political party,” he said. “We feel good with what we’ve learned from the caucus.”
Herbert said there was $3 million in his budget last year to pay for a presidential primary. But lawmakers decided not to appropriate the funds after the Utah GOP announced it was holding a preference vote at party caucus meetings instead.