The Utah State Democratic Party uses a database tool called Votebuilder. This tool tracks voters, helps to manage volunteers, plans walking routes for campaigns, and helps to set up phonebanks, among other things. The setup and maintenance of this tool is a pretty significant expense for the state party and access to both the application and the data are tightly controlled by the state party staff.
Imagine the surprise and shock of this observer, as well as many others with whom I’ve spoken, to discover that State Party Chairman Jim Dabakis allowed a Republican Salt Lake City Council candidate, James Rogers, access to the Votebuilder system during the primary campaign. Rogers has, apparently, switched his voter registration to “unaffiliated,” but his personal Facebook page still lists him as a member of the Republican Party.
Aside from the obvious issue of providing Republicans with proprietary data and systems of the Democratic Party, especially when they’re running against established and supportive Democrats like Brad Bartholomew (who was defeated in the primary), there are long-term issues to consider here. Salt Lake City Council District 1, for which Rogers is now on the general election ballot, sits in the heart of Democratic legislative territory. In includes areas represented by House members Jen Seelig and Angela Romero, as well as Senator Luz Robles. The party has just assisted in the election of a Republican who is now building a base of support from which he could potentially launch a campaign to unseat one of these elected Democrats.
In what world does it make sense to help establish a political opponent for a possible future challenge to one of your own elected officials?
While municipal elections are technically non-partisan offices, the reality of the matter is very, very different. Municipal offices and the campaigns for them are training grounds for both activists and candidates. These are the campaigns in which initial bases of support are built, the campaigns that groom our future county elected officials, legislators, state-wide, and federal candidates. Pleading the “non-partisan” excuse is not only insanely naive, it’s disingenuous.
Personally, I would love to know who made this decision. Was it approved by the executive committee? Was it staff? Was it Dabakis? Regardless of who, however, it is certainly another example of the horribly short-sighted thinking of our party leadership.