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Campaigning Has Gone Virtual. Will It Help Incumbents At The State Party Conventions?

Photo of a woman with blonde hair wearing white headphones
Courtesy of Marci Green Campbell
Marci Green Campbell, who's running for state Senate against an incumbent, hosts a virtual meeting with state delegates ahead of the Republican State Convention.

Running for political office, especially when trying to win over state and county delegates, involves a lot of in-person interaction. But during the coronavirus pandemic, campaigning has gone virtual and the Republican and Democratic parties didn’t hold caucus meetings to elect new delegates. 

Marci Green Campbell, a Republican candidate for state Senate, has been leaning on Zoom during the pandemic — much like many other candidates and other Utahns. 

In the lead up to this weekend’s Republican State Convention, that has meant a lot of virtual meetings with delegates, who will decide if she makes it on the primary ballot. 

Campbell helped organize a referendum against a tax reform law the Legislature passed in December. She says some of the volunteers were planning to run to be delegates and vote for her at the convention. 

“All of that had to change very rapidly,” Campbell said. “They all still want to help in the capacity that they can and post-convention certainly they’ll be helping to put up signs and promote on their own Facebook page, etc.” 

Campbell is also concerned that not having face time with existing delegates makes it harder to sell herself as a candidate, especially when going against someone who’s been in the Senate for eight years. But she’s trying to find creative ways to show off her personality, like including bloopers at the end of campaign videos. 

Her opponent, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said the lack of new delegates should help candidates like him at convention. 

“It does probably give an advantage to the incumbents who already have some established name ID among the crowd that really watches politics closely,” Weiler said.

But Quin Monson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University, said he’s not sure how much of a difference it’ll make because challengers can still reach out to all their delegates. 

“The convention makes the election accessible to anyone, no matter their resources,” Monson said. “Because in that particular state house race, it's 100 or so delegates … and it's not impossible for a candidate to call all of them multiple times.” 

In fact, at the Utah County Republican Convention last weekend, two incumbents did NOT get nominated for the ballot.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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