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REGIONAL PRIMARY SHOULD BE TRIED

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As Western governors meet this week at the National Governors' Association winter meetings, one topic they should discuss seriously is a regional presidential primary.

As this page has reiterated several times over a number of years, a Western regional primary would do much to increase the influence Utah and surrounding states have in the selection of final presidential candidates.A national series of regional primaries also could help shorten the seemingly endless and hugely expensive presidential campaign that now includes a string of 37 separate presidential primaries and 15 state cau-cuses.

In 1992 Utah's Democratic Party held the first presidential primary election in the state. That experience gave Utahns a taste of how it feels to be a part - though a very small part - of the presidential campaign.

The new primary brought to Utah some presidential candidates who otherwise might never have visited the state, though the first-place finisher, Paul Tsongas, didn't bother to make a stop in Utah. Those who did come brought some extra revenue in the form of campaign advertising.

Only 31,000 Utahns - including some Republicans - turned out to vote, but the apathy would probably correct itself as more became acquainted with the importance of such primaries. Despite the turnout, the primary brought far more voters to the polls than usually attend mass meetings to choose convention delegates.

Being part of a regional primary that would attract much more attention from candidates would help fuel voter enthusiasm.

A group of Southern states already has adopted the regional presidential primary, and other regions, including the West, should seriously consider it.

The West region currently being discussed would include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, in addition to Utah. A regional primary involving those states could not be arranged for the 1996 campaign but certainly could be operating by 2000.