Herbert defends special election process

Speaking at his monthly news conference, Gov. Gary Herbert said it “would not be a problem” for him to call a special legislative session on election law, as long as it was clear lawmakers would only codify Herbert’s 3rd Congressional District special election process.

That idea, Herbert calling lawmakers into a summer special session to “ratify” what the governor has already done, came up in an open House GOP caucus Wednesday.

In his monthly KUED Channel 7 press conference Thursday morning, Herbert spoke about a number of issues – the U.S. Senate health care bill, wildfires in Utah and the battle over an Attorney General Sean Reyes opinion – asked for by GOP legislative leaders – on whether Herbert had followed proper law in setting up an election process to replace U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Herbert said – and it is generally agreed – that his process – seen here – involves more people and gives the 190,000 registered Republicans in the 3rd District a voice in whom the next congressman will be.

Chaffetz is set to resign June 30. Herbert noted that most likely the GOP nominee will win – and it is much better to follow his open 3rd District process that allowed two Republican candidates to get on the Aug. 15 primary ballot via signatures.

Last Saturday, around 750 GOP state delegates from the 3rd District picked former state House member Chris Herrod.

Without Herbert’s dual-track to the primary process this spring and summer, Herrod would, in reality, have been picked by about half – 413 – of GOP delegates to be the next U.S. House member from the 3rd District. The GOP nominee will almost certainly win the seat in November.

Herbert noted that (without mentioning any names) that the new GOP congressman could serve 10 years or more – since his re-election would likely be routine.

Herbert said the 3rd district process some GOP legislative leaders were talking about (before and after Herbert set up his more open process) would have picked a single candidate in the convention, with a 50 percent plus one vote. There would have been no primary where registered Republicans could have weighed in.

“You disenfranchise 190,000 Republican voters. And they should have a say,” said Herbert.

Now, they do – as the GOP Aug. 15 ballot will have on the ballot Herrod and successful signature-gathers, investor Tanner Ainge and Provo Mayor John Curtis.

If the legislature wants to just codify the Herbert election process in a special session called by the governor, “I’m willing to entertain” that, Herbert said.

Some in the House GOP caucus – including several attorneys – worry that a lawsuit filed by the new United Utah Party, or other lawsuits, could see a judge rule Herbert was out of bounds, which could stop or curtail the current 3rd District election process.

However, if the lawmakers quickly came into special session and passed the exact election process Herbert and chief election officer Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox have set up, that could strengthen the state’s position making it more likely a judge would throw out the lawsuit(s).

On other topics: Herbert said he hoped the GOP U.S. Senate health care law – released Thursday morning – will bloc grant federal health care monies to the states, and with flexibility so Herbert and other governors can best take care of their most needy citizens.

Herbert stopped short of calling for a ban on all fireworks this summer, saying state, federal, and local wildfire fighting officials are working close together to keep citizens and structures safe.

There may be some areas where citizens are restricted to setting off fireworks at a city park or even a large parking lot – to keep down wildfires.

Herbert said he doesn’t know the size of the reduced Bears Ears National Monument. But he added various Native American antiquities could be protected with just a 500,000 acre monument.

Former Democratic President Barack Obama created a 1.3 million Bears Ears just before leaving office last December.

But if the President Donald Trump Bears Ears is much smaller in size, that doesn’t mean the BLM couldn’t adequately protect the other acreage – including giving Native Americans and local residents a say in that land management.