Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson says he is “relieved” that top party officials have decided to end the SB54 lawsuit that has cost the party more than $330,000 and buried it in debt.
And he hopes that a “blow out” state Central Committee meeting this Saturday will end the lawsuit issue – at least for now.
He expects the die-hard pro-lawsuit CC members – likely numbering less than 60 out of the 183 members – will make an effort to remove him from office.
“But I never would have hit the kill switch” of the end-lawsuit decision by top party officials if he didn’t know he would survive it, Anderson tells me.
Anderson, a commercial airline pilot, is actually a pretty gutsy guy.
And he clearly has had enough of the right-wing wackos (my word, not his) that have been driving various party decisions over the last several years.
“This (the lawsuit) has gone on long enough,” said Anderson. He actually won the chairmanship last May in the state GOP organizing convention with the promise to end the lawsuit.
Wednesday night, in a special meeting, the four state officers and members of the newly-reorganized party budget committee voted to end the lawsuit – citing powers given to that group by a party bylaw which says the budget committee and officers can take (he believes “must”) action to stop a deficit in party finances.
For more than a year the party has owed several lawyers more than $330,000 in anti-SB54 legal fees.
Also, the party failed to pay any number of operational bills – now totally $61,000. As previously reported, the party has bounced checks all over town.
“That is not Republican; it is not principled,” he said.
But some of the right-wing hardliners are not going down without a further fight.
Already, leaders of the Iron County GOP are threatening some kind of court injunction to stop Anderson et al. from officially dropping the lawsuit, now before the Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Anderson understands the pro-lawsuit CC members who say the party should at least wait to hear the opinion of the three-judge panel that has heard the appeal.
But Anderson says he’s told by attorneys who have experience with 10th Circuit appeals that that written decision likely won’t come until March.
And the party can’t afford to wait until then – when the ultimate outcome is clear.
“We can’t afford this anymore,” says Anderson. Any number of previous GOP state donors won’t give money for operational costs (and the $61,000 debt) until the lawsuit is ended.
Even if the appeals court rules in the party’s favor – not likely believes Anderson – it would remand the case back to Utah federal court, where more hearings would mean more legal fees.
With the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition back on track, even an SB54 defeat (not likely, he believes) would not mean anything now – the petition will just go forward.
“We need to stop this” SB54 fight “and get back to raising money and preparing for the elections next year,” says Anderson.
That is the real job of the Utah Republican Party – electing good Republicans to offices in 2018, and beyond, he adds.
But will the wack-os (my words, not his) give up?
“I hope truth and sunlight will purify” the argument Saturday, he adds. Reason will win out.
It takes 60 percent of the 183 CC members to throw Anderson out of office. That is 110 votes, he says. And he’s counted those clearly before going forward with killing the lawsuit.
“I’m confident we” – the officers who voted Wednesday night – “will prevail.”
He wonders if the Iron County GOP has money to sue him, why haven’t they given money toward the SB54 lawsuit?
The right-wingers have said for months, if not years, that there are outside GOP groups who will step forward and fund the SB54 lawsuit. But so far none have given a dime.
Anderson says maybe over the next few quarterly CC meetings, the wack-os (my words, not his) will “pout” and try to disrupt things.
But over time other CC members will get tired of their antics and move along with the real work of the party – raising money, putting in place turn-out-the-vote programs, recruiting good candidates, and electing Republicans in very red Utah.
“We need to make this party strong again,” said Anderson.
Toward that end, he says GOP Gov. Gary Herbert – the titular head of the state party – “agrees to stand 110 percent shoulder to shoulder with me” in dropping the lawsuit and getting along with traditional party work.
Ending the SB54 lawsuit now “is the most positive step we’ve taken in three years.”
But expect a big “blow out” in Saturday’s CC meeting in Park City before the lawsuit can be put behind the Utah Republican Party.