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GOP, Demos see no hidden agenda in appeal to voters

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It just isn't so.

At least that was the message coming from Gov. Mike Leavitt and top GOP and Democratic leaders, who called a press conference Friday in response to a Deseret News story that conservatives were worried that a get-out-the-vote campaign is really an attempt to defeat ultraconservative candidates in next Tuesday's primary election."There's no hidden agenda," said GOP party chairman Rob Bishop, who denied that Republicans are trying to make sure their more moderate candidates are elected.

But there were strange political bedfellows at this press conference. Joining Leavitt and Bishop was House Minority Leader Dave Jones, who said "Democrats should vote where they have Democratic candidates."

But Democrats have no contested primaries on Tuesday. So why would they care to participate in what Leavitt called "a nonpartisan appeal" for voter participation. The campaign is being funded by political campaign accounts, $1,250 coming from the House, $1,250 from the Senate, and $2,500 from the governor.

Bishop, Jones and Leavitt all joined arms Friday to say the issue is not about influencing political demographics but to get higher voter turnout.

"Voting is the hallmark of democracy and of freedom," Leavitt said. And in America, "voting is as easy as running to the convenience store for a Big Gulp and as time consuming as a stop at the ATM."

Regardless, candidates have struggled historically to get voters out for the June primaries. This Tuesday, pollsters estimate 10 percent voter turnout or less, Bishop said. And, combined with the fact that "there are no major races at the top of the ticket that would stimulate citizens" to vote, Leavitt said extra measures were necessary.

Low voter turnout may be more than just an embarrassment to Utah's historically high turnout rates, though. Some feel it may tip the scales in favor of ultra-conservatives.

The Deseret News reported recently that in nearly a dozen races, moderate Republicans are being challenged by conservative candidates. And questions have been raised about the soundness of a campaign that urges "all voters" to participate in elections where no Democrats are involved.

But pushing questions about election strategy aside, Leavitt and Co. maintained their stance, urging voters to cast an "intelligent ballot" based on candidates and party loyalty.

"Republicans should vote for the Republican Party candidate, Democrats should vote for the Democratic Party and independents should vote their conscience," Bishop said.

And in spite of recent statements from his own party leaders, suggesting Democrats vote in Republican primaries to shape future elections, Jones echoed Bishop's sentiments.

"People should participate in the primary elections on behalf of the political party they subscribe to, that best reflects their philosophical views."

Acknowledging that Democrats will not be involved in any primaries this year, Jones said Democrats should get involved in local political activities anyway.

"Even though there's not a primary, there are activities," he said, suggesting Salt Lake residents support Democrat Karen Crompton's campaign for Republican incumbent Mary Callaghan's County Commission seat.

Or they could just be good citizens. According to a press release by Democratic Party Chairwoman Meg Holbrook, "We urge you to take some time on Tuesday and perform some act of public service befitting a member of the Democratic Party . . . They could volunteer some time at the local homeless shelter, hospital or just take some time to do something nice for a neighbor in need."

But that won't help the voter turnout percentages any.