Herbert decries GOP divisions, backs Romney and Curtis in primary elections

Governor Gary Herbert said the GOP civil war that fractured delegates at last weekend’s party convention is leading to a broader rift in the Utah Republican Party, and hurting the ability for the party to elect candidates.

“I am concerned about the divisiveness in the party,” said Herbert during his monthly KUED press conference. “I am concerned about people who feel they’re disenfranchised by the process. There are more than 700,000 Republicans in Utah and the fact that they don’t feel included is a worry.”

Herbert says the Utah GOP has forgotten the “commandments” of former President Ronald Reagan who said the Republican party should be a “big tent” and that Republicans should not speak ill of each other.

Herbert said the fight over the SB54 compromise which allows candidates to get on the ballot even if convention delegates don’t vote for them, is one of the reasons the party is tearing itself apart. But, he does not want the legal challenges to the compromise which saved the caucus/convention system to end, saying the legal fight will eventually resolve itself.

“Those who believe in the convention system should have the opportunity to go to the last appellate court available to them,” he said.

Herbert also attributed some of the division in the Utah GOP to Libertarians who have “infiltrated” the party. “They should be running as Libertarians,” he said.

Saturday’s GOP convention sent Mitt Romney to a primary for the U.S. Senate nominee against Utah Rep. Mike Kennedy. Herbert says the June election presents Utah Republicans with two good choices in the June election.

“The public is well served when two good people get involved in the process,” said Herbert during his monthly KUED press conference.

Herbert stopped short of endorsing anyone in the race, but did acknowledge he is a supporter of Mitt Romney since he encouraged Romney to get in the race.

“He (Romney) brings a unique cache to the Senate,” said Herbert. “He won’t be a typical freshman having run for president twice. He brings a wealth of understanding about international issues, especially about Russia.”

While he is in Romney’s camp, Herbert also says Kennedy is well qualified to serve in Washington.

“I know Mike Kennedy well,” he said. “He brings his own talent and expertise to the table. It will be an interesting campaign and race.”

Utah GOP delegates also sent Rep. John Curtis into a rematch with Chris Herrod for the Republican nomination in the 3rd CD. Herbert said he has been a supporter of Curtis, whom he described as a “rational, common-sense Republican” who politically is right-of-center. However, Herbert again came short of an endorsement saying “we have to go through the race and see what happens.”