How Donald Trump could help kill SB54

Donald TrumpIf President Donald Trump taps Attorney General Sean Reyes to head the Federal Trade Commission, some Republicans see that as an opportunity to undermine the SB54 compromise.

Here’s their reasoning.

If Reyes leaves, the Republican State Central Committee will select three candidates to replace Reyes, and Gov. Gary Herbert would have to pick from those three.

As has been widely documented, the GOP Central Committee is openly hostile to the SB54 compromise, which allows candidates to gather signatures to get on the primary ballot. They’ve filed lawsuits, then reneged on a deal to end the lawsuits when legislators tried to allay their concerns about the “plurality” issue.

If Reyes leaves, what’s to prevent that body from advancing three candidates who share their negative view of SB54?


In fact, the SCC could nominate the lawyers who represented the party against SB54, Marcus Mumford, and Morgan Philpot, to become Utah’s top lawyer, who would now be tasked with defending the law they sought to undo.

Is that a massive conflict of interest? Yes.

Is it legal? Yes.

Now, you might suggest that Gov. Gary Herbert would see through such shenanigans and reject those names.

He cannot.

The way the statute is written is the Gov. must choose from the submitted candidates, with no wiggle room.

Now for a reality check. There’s really not much an anti-SB54 Attorney General could do to undermine the law.

Even if state GOP bosses can get an anti-SB54 attorney appointed attorney general, the state’s top election staffer says it likely would be too little, too late as far as the state party’s lawsuits against the election compromise law.

“One would hope that” the attorney general — the state’s top defense lawyer — “would vigorously defend any law,” said Thomas, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and director of the Utah Elections Office.

However, even if that were not to happen, the arguments and judicial decisions on SB54 “are basically in place.”

In short, even with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the paperwork has been filed, the arguments made, and the decisions rendered.

The state GOP has already lost one case before the Utah Supreme Court and two cases before in Utah Federal Court — one of those which the state Republican Party Central Committee recently flipped on and decided to pursue in the 10th Circuit.

SB54 has been upheld in all cases as constitutional. And the Elections Office argument that the state controls who gets on the taxpayer-paid-for primary ballot supported, as well.

The idea that the GOP Central Committee could install a Manchurian candidate as attorney general in order to kill a law they’ve been obsessed with getting rid of since the moment it went into place seems like a John le Carre novel come to life.