Bob Bernick’s notebook: Troubling times for Utah Republicans

I’m assuming that a number of folks reading this column are registered Republicans.

Maybe a few are not registered as such, but usually vote for Republican candidates and, in the main, consider themselves Republicans.

If so, what happens Saturday at a specially-called state GOP Central Committee matters to you.


Because a bylaw being proposed for adoption sets the stage for someone, or someones, rather than you deciding if you will be a member of the Utah Republican Party.

That’s right.

Some official party group – previously nicknamed a “purity” committee – could well be assigned the power to decide, in some manner, whether you are worthy enough to be included in the party membership rolls.

What could it mean for you if, at some point, you registered to be a Republican with your local county clerk, only to be denied membership in – or be kicked out of — the Utah Republican Party?

Well, various federal court rulings say you could still vote in any closed GOP primary election – because the State of Utah, not the party, controls the primary ballot and who can vote in it.

But you may be denied participation in any official GOP activity – like attending or voting in your March party caucus, where county and state delegates are picked.

Maybe that’s not a big deal for you – just another meeting you don’t have to attend.

However, if you decided to go beyond just being a rank-and-file GOP voter and want to run for office under the Republican Party banner – not being an “official” Republican could have far-reaching effects.

You would be denied the chance to be a Republican and run inside the party – attend the county or state GOP convention and be voted on by delegates.

The party may not allow you access to party information, like voter lists, or use party resources in your campaign.

At the extreme, after you get on the GOP primary ballot via voter signature gathering – an act of the Utah Elections Office and your local county elections clerk (not the party) — the Republican Party not only won’t endorse you, it could actually work against you in your campaign – like it would if you were a Democrat, or a member of some other party, or an independent candidate.

In short, if you were denied “official” party membership, in the eyes of the Republican Party you are an outsider, to be opposed at every turn.

As a signature-gathering candidate, you could still be listed as a Republican on the primary ballot.

And if you won there, you would be listed as the Republican nominee on the general election ballot.

But your county and/or state Republican Party(s) may well work against your candidacy.

Shun you. Or actively oppose you.

All because the bylaw in Saturday’s CC meeting says the party will decide membership lists, keep those lists, and decide who can be a member and who cannot.

Perhaps the state GOP will never take the next step and set up “purity” committees to decide who can and who can’t be a Utah Republican Party member.

Or who can and can’t be an “official” GOP candidate for county, state or federal office – shunning those who take only the signature-gathering route and are not approved by party delegates in convention.

But maybe party leaders will set up the “purity” committees.

These are troubling, if not dangerous, times for the leaders of the Utah Republican Party – which have been feeding on themselves for several years.

Saturday’s vote is important to you if you consider yourself a Republican in Utah.