The “quixotic” minority members of the Utah Republican Party’s Central Committee passed a controversial bylaw a week ago just to get the party back into court, one of those members told a legislative hearing Monday morning.
Thus, all the internal conflict and crap the state GOP and Republican lawmakers are going through is nothing more than a legal tactic in the ongoing quest to overturn SB54, which established a dual-path route to Utah’s primary ballot.
Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, saw his HB485 pass the House Business Labor Committee by a 9-3 vote, with Reps. Travis Seegmiller, R-St. George; John Knotwell, R-Herriman; and Marc Roberts, R-Salem; voting against the measure.
As reported previously by UtahPolicy.com, HB485 is aimed at “freezing” the state party’s Qualified Political Party status under SB54, and allowing Republican candidates this election year to take the signature gathering route to the party primary, the convention route, or both routes at the same time.
McKell and other HB485 advocates said that when the Central Committee changed bylaws a week ago Saturday, they put the party’s already-chosen QPP status in jeopardy, with the possibility that ALL candidates would have to take the signature route, none could take the caucus/delegate/convention route, or – even worse – no Republican candidate this year would appear on the general election ballot under the official Republican Party’s name or banner.
The internal hard feelings between some officeholders and hard-line SB54 opponents on the Central Committee flared during testimony.
Rep. Val Potter, R-Logan, a member of the CC said he hasn’t seen anything like what has been happening within his party over the last six months, accusing Phill Wright – the former party vice chair who lost his bid for the chairmanship last spring – of trying to hold “secret” CC meetings.
Wright defended himself and the bylaw that was passed 10 days ago.
Wright opposed HB485, saying it was a legislative attempt to tell the party “we can’t do what we’ve already done.”
The state GOP has lost two legal challenges in federal court and a Utah Supreme Court decision, but the hard-liners inside the party Central Committee believe they can ultimately win in court, if they can just find a way to get back into court.
And the bylaw change, and the HB485 “solution,” appears to be the way to get there, the committee was told Monday.
Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, acknowledged that there is a lot of “animosity” inside the state GOP, but believes HB485 actually “rescues” the party, as it blunts the possibility that the party’s QPP status could be removed by the Utah Elections Office, and make all Republican candidates take the signature route this year.
No, said Wright, it would just ensure another lawsuit – with the party, once again – arguing that their constitutional right of free association is being denied by SB54.
This is not over with yet.
The bill must still pass the House by 50 votes and the Senate by 20 votes so that it can be signed by GOP Gary Herbert and take effect immediately, so, unless a court intervenes, Republican candidates this year can be assured of getting on their primary ballot under SB54’s dual pathway, and be listed as Republicans as they move toward the November ballot.