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It may be too little, too late, but a group of mostly tea party Republicans have formed a political issues committee to stop the momentum of the Count My Vote effort to change by ballot initiative the way political parties choose their candidates.

The battle cries on both sides of this issue are familiar. Those who want to change the system to a direct primary for each of the political parties say the current caucus convention system is too easily controlled by minority special interest groups and too often lead to the nomination of extremists who don't represent the average Utahn.

Those fighting for the status quo say direct primaries will favor the wealthy and well known candidates and close the door to lesser known but well qualified candidates.

Count My Vote, operating under the Political Information Committee Alliance for Good Government, has raised close to a half million dollars and has enjoyed endorsements from some of the most respected people in Utah.

The new PIC, Utah First Political Action Committee was formed just this past September by a group based in Cedar City and has raised about $7,000 with $5,000 of that coming from the Iron County Republican Party.

The chairman of the PIC is Casey Anderson, a tea party Republican from Iron County who was elected to the State Senate in a special election to replace Sen. Dennis Stowell, who died in office, then lost in a subsequent Republican Primary election to Evan Vickers.

The co-chair is another Iron County Republican, Rob Cox.

Others leading the movement are Aaron Gabrielson, chairman of the Wasatch County Republican Party who unsuccessfully ran for chair of the State Republican Party this year; Uintah County Republican Chair Joannie Crane; former Davis County Republican Chair Kris Kimball; Log Cabin Republican President James Humphries, and Democratic political consultant Jim Gonzales.

The strategy of the group so far is interesting. In a recent pitch for money and support from the Davis County Republican Executive Committee, Utah First advocates said they had big-money commitments from the Utah County, Salt Lake County and Washington County GOP committees, although no contributions from those entities have been reported so far.

Sources say the Davis County Republican Executive Committee and the Weber County Executive Committee have agreed to give contributions of $1,000 to $5,000.

Another strategy that was discussed, according to sources, is doing media messages critical of some of the more high profile backers of County My Vote.

So there might be some negative jabs at people like Gail Miller or Norma Matheson?

Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, as this little band of mostly rural Utah Republicans push against the juggernaut of the Count My Vote petition drive, an actual intra-party Republican election recently may have put a germ of doubt into the minds of some GOP supporters of the caucus-convention system.

When Spencer Cox, a state representative from Sanpete County, was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Gary Herbert, the the Republican delegates from House District 58 met in a special election to choose his successor.

Three well qualified and respected candidates were vying for the seat: Sanpete County Commissioner Claudia Jarrett, Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay and Snow College history professor Jon Cox, a distant cousin to Spencer Cox.

They seemed to have equal support among the delegates until Spencer Cox, the new lieutenant governor, stood up and gave an eloquent endorsement of Jon Cox, who then won the vote handily.

Spencer Cox earlier had a given a strong endorsement to the current caucus convention system, where delegates who will nominate their party's candidates are selected in small group meetings.

Some in the meeting where he swayed a small group of delegates now wonder if that is the best way to do things. —