Utah GOP leaders have dodged a conservative bullet this April as several county Republican Party conventions and the state convention are preceding without resolutions calling for the repeal of HB116, the controversial illegal immigrant guest worker law.
You may recall that last spring and summer a number of GOP conventions – including the Salt Lake County and the state GOP delegate meetings – passed anti-HB116 resolutions.
In effect, the party’s base representatives were telling GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and the Republican-dominated Legislature to repeal the law.
But GOP legislative leaders thumbed their noses at the 2010 delegate pool – both county and state delegates – by refusing to act on various HB116 repealer bills.
In the Senate, Sen. Steve Urquhart’s straight out repeal was killed in a standing committee on a motion by Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville.
The House Rules Committee, with House GOP leadership support, refused to let a repeal/replacement bill by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, even get a public hearing.
So no HB116 reaction bill ever reached Herbert’s desk – the governor never had to take a stand on it.
Now the Salt Lake County GOP convention’s deadline has passed for delegate-sponsored resolutions for Saturday’s meeting in the Salt Palace.
“We have no resolutions introduced at all,” Salt Lake County GOP chair Julie Dole told UtahPolicy on Monday.
“It looks like we’re going to get into convention, do our work of voting on candidates, and get done,” she said, with a bit of relief in her voice.
Resolution deadlines have also passed in a number of other county GOP conventions or the conventions have already been held.
The Utah County GOP meeting, also scheduled for this Saturday morning, has no resolutions up on its web site, either.
The state GOP convention is April 21. Under state party rules, resolutions must go before a special committee before they are allowed on the convention agenda. As the state convention web site shows, none of the resolutions submitted deal with HB116 issues.
Convention resolutions are always a touchy issue, with various county and state party leaders struggling over the years in how to deal with them.
Often controversial measures are put forward, and since most of the resolution votes take place at the end of the conventions – after hours of candidate speeches and rounds of voting – many delegates leave before the resolutions are voted upon.
Historically, the die-hard delegates stay – those who may have a special interest in this or that resolution or internal party rule fights.
For years, party leaders and officeholders have claimed that convention resolutions often don’t reflect the will of all the convention delegates – and thus should not be taken too seriously.
But especially in 2011 the anti-HB116 resolution votes were seen as a call to action for the GOP-controlled 2012 Legislature.
Ignore the county and state anti-HB116 delegate sentiment at your own peril, a number of Utah Tea Party/illegal immigrant activists were telling their Republican lawmakers.
However, the citizen turnout and delegate selections in the March 15 GOP mass meetings changed that dynamic.
Dole said that 35,000 Salt Lake County Republicans turned out for their party caucus meetings – three times the numbers of 2010.
She can’t say for sure how many of the 1,569 county GOP delegates are new this year.
“But it is a pretty high number. We haven’t had time to cross-check the lists” of the 2012 delegate names to 2010 delegate names, she said.
On the state level, Dave Hansen, campaign manager for U.S Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said a poll his campaign conducted of the 4,000 state delegates shows that around 80 percent are new this year.
That is a staggering number of new delegates, leading to the speculation that the angry, Tea Party-type delegates of 2010 were replaced in this March’s caucus meetings with more moderate, open-minded delegates.
And the fact that not one Salt Lake County GOP delegate or state Republican delegate put forward an anti-HB116 resolution reflects that sentiment.
Dole said it is her understanding of internal county party rules that no resolutions may be introduced from the floor, but must have come in to county party headquarters by last Friday’s deadline.
Since that didn’t happen, “we don’t expect a floor fight” over any resolutions or rule issues, Dole said.
While not always crazy, there have been some pretty bizarre meetings of Salt Lake County GOP delegates in the past.
In the 1990s police were called to a Salt Palace convention when several disgruntled Republicans tried to introduce a resolution and were passing out flyers without buying a convention booth space – a violation of internal rules.
Later that day, several Republicans were arrested for disorderly conduct after they refused to move off of sidewalks outside of the convention center.
While charges were ultimately dropped, the county party got public black eye over the confrontation.
Saturday’s GOP Salt Lake County convention seems headed for a much milder affair.
The biggest race is for the county mayor, with six men vying for the GOP nomination – Merrill Cook, Mark Crockett, Larry Decker, Gary Ott, Richard Snelgrove and Mike Winder.
Several are former or current county government officeholders. You can read about the men here, as well as lists of the other races to be voted on Saturday.
Republicans are trying to take back the mayor’s office after eight years of Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon’s administration.
Corroon isn’t running for re-election. Also Saturday county Democratic delegates will meet in Murray High School to vote on two county mayoral candidates: Sens. Ben McAdams and Ross Romero, both D-Salt Lake.
In any contested race, if one candidate ends up with 60 percent of the delegate vote, he or she is the nominee and advances to the November general election ballot.
If no one gets 60 percent, the top two vote-getters advance to a June 26 party primary ballot.