Utah County GOP sanctions Keep My Voice after attack on Republican lawmaker

The Utah County GOP is hitting back at organizers of a ballot initiative to repeal SB54, saying their attack on a sitting Republican lawmaker goes too far.

Utah County GOP Chair Rob Craig sent an “urgent” email to precinct chairs, instructing them to cover up the Keep My Voice logo on caucus location signs with tape. KMV, which is seeking a spot on the 2018 ballot with an initiative to repeal the dual-track course to the primary ballot, is sponsoring those signs through an in-kind donation to county Republican parties.

20180304 Craig Caucus Email

KMV posted social media messages attacking Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, for sponsoring HB485. That bill sought to nullify a rule change forced through by a small minority on the Utah GOP Central Committee which revokes the party membership of GOP candidates in the 1st and 2nd Congressional District who gather signatures to secure a spot on the primary ballot. The bill did not pass, and Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson says he will ignore the rule change because it violates the party’s governing documents and state law.

That didn’t sit well with KMV organizers, who blistered McKell in a (now deleted) Facebook post urging his defeat.

20180304 KMV McKell Post

Craig says it’s wildly inappropriate for any organization that is partnering with the GOP to advocate for the replacement of a party member.

“This statement from Keep My Voice declaring a need to replace a Republican candidate is unacceptable,” said Craig. “I can’t imagine the voters in his district, who duly elected him, getting a message like this.”

Dave Bateman, who is one of the main funders of the KMV effort also took to social media blast McKell, saying voters should think twice about electing an “ambulance-chasing, personal-injury attorney,” and finished the post with “Drain the swamp. Replace Rep. Mike McKell in 2018.” 

20180304 Bateman McKell Post

Bateman also had another post offering a “sizeable donation” to anyone planning to challenge McKell this year. No Republican took Bateman up on his offer, and McKell avoided an intra-party challenge during the just-completed filing period.

20180318 Bateman Donation Post

Craig says Bateman’s posts are fine, there’s nothing wrong with an individual weighing in on a political campaign, But, to have an organization, much less one partnering with the party, attack a fellow Republican is too much.

“They can’t do that and have their name on our signs,” he said.

How did the partnership between some county Republican parties and Keep My Voice come to be? It all stems from the financial troubles the state party is still struggling with from the previous four years.

Party chairman Rob Anderson says the Utah GOP is supposed to provide 3 signs per caucus location, but could not afford the $16,000 price tag that came with the printing.

“We reached out to donors, but they were unwilling to give us the money for that,” he said.

The state party told county parties that they could purchase their own signs at the rate they negotiated, but the state party was unable to.

At that point, organizers for Keep My Voice reached out to party counties, offering to pay for the printing of the caucus signs. According to an email from Dave Bateman, who founded the group, obtained by UtahPolicy.com, they wanted a few things in exchange.

1. Contact info for the state and county delegates elected at the caucus meetings (usually, this info is provided to candidates, but not organizations).

2. The locations of the caucus meetings.

3. Contact info for legislative chairs or other local leaders.

4. Old delegate lists stretching back for the past 18 years.

5. A volunteer assigned to every precinct to help KMV collect signatures.

Why would the group want old delegate lists stretching back to 2000? The stated reason is those delegates would be more inclined to volunteer for KMV’s efforts to preserve the caucus. But, those lists also could help KMV “stack” the caucuses with people who are sympathetic to their point of view.

The Utah GOP Central Committee passed a resolution allowing KMV to play a video and read a statement in support of the caucus system at the neighborhood meetings.