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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Western States Primary

Senate President John Valentine and Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich are in Santa Fe this morning with Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. discussing a Western State’s Primary with Governor Bill Richardson and other officials in New Mexico.

The Issue (in a nutshell):

The people and land of the American West contribute unique strength to this nation. We tend to be a functional, paradoxical blend of fierce independence and community spirit, an interesting mix of urban, suburban, rural, and vast natural beauty, the wealth of innovation joined with the strength of tradition.

We also struggle with serious national issues – public lands, roads, water, immigration, NCLB, outside nuclear waste, and old fashioned federalism, to name just a few.

Yet, for all the strength of the West and our significant collection of electoral votes, the only contact most westerners have with presidential aspirants is viewing their jet trails in the sunset as they fly from coast to coast.

It’s easy to imagine how the lack of friendly contact might skew a candidate’s views. Watching, disconnected, from an airplane window, candidates and staffers could easily fall into viewing the West as a sparsely populated area to ignore or exploit, which tends to show up in policy initiatives that deal poorly with the unique character of the place.

Effective leaders need ground truth. What may work for people on the east coast can be strikingly out of context here. America deserves a little better.

Divided we fall. We think it’s time to put the American West on the map in terms of presidential primaries.

Senate Leadership views a potential partnership between Utah and New Mexico as a good first step. John Valentine had a very positive conversation with New Mexico Senate President Ben Altaramirano in China last month and looks forward to continuing the discussion today.

Following today's discussions, they plan to hold a press conference.

This movement, by the way, cuts across Red State / Blue State lines. Bob Brigham posts a good blog on topic at the blue-leaning Swing State Project site. Brigham says
“I'm a big fan of some of the Western Strategy: straight talk, bold action, populist, and authentic.”
House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander, House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, Utah State Democratic Party Chair Wayne Holland, and Utah State Republican Party Chair Joe Cannon are also part of Utah's delegation in New Mexico today. Jason Chaffetz and Mike Mower, of the Governor’s office are providing staff support.

We appreciate the Governor for his leadership on this issue.

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