Davis GOP punishes Senate chair for attempt to reign in GOP ‘Gang of 51’

The Davis County GOP is at it again, punishing members who dare to speak out against hardliners in the county and state party and stifling dissent. 

On Saturday, the DCRP executive committee removed Senate District chair Elaine Oaks because she sponsored a resolution at the county convention seeking to slap down some members of the “Gang of 51” for their role in a controversial change to the Utah GOP’s bylaws. That change sought to kick members out of the party who gathered signatures to get on the primary ballot. The bylaw change was never implemented because it violated state election law, which requires the GOP to allow candidates to take both paths to the ballot. The ultimate goal of the bylaw change was to provoke another lawsuit over the SB54 dual-path. So far, the Utah GOP has lost nearly every legal challenge to the law.

The “Gang of 51” is a hardline faction of the Utah GOP’s State Central Committee who has repeatedly pushed the party to the hard right and fought against the SB54 dual-path route to the ballot. The party’s lawsuit against SB54 nearly bankrupted the Utah GOP.  The group also pushed Party Chair Rob Anderson to resign at some of the “emergency” meetings.

The bylaw change came during one of several “emergency” meetings that the “Gang of 51” called using a loophole in the party’s rules. The meetings were deliberately called on short notice so that members of the State Central Committee sympathetic to the rule changes would be able to attend, but few opponents, ensuring they would pass. 

Oaks’ resolution sought to remove the 13 Davis County members of the Utah GOP Central committee who voted in favor of the bylaw change. Her resolution was voted down at the Davis County GOP convention. But, seemingly in retaliation for her resolution, she was brought up on an ethics charge by the DCRP for “publicly disparaging Phill Wright.” Wright is a candidate for the Legislature against Rep. Ray Ward. 

The ethics complaint against Oaks, as described to UtahPolicy.com, claims Oaks publicly disparaged Phill Wright and attacked his character, claiming he was unfit to represent the party.

Oaks’ email describes the Utah GOP as a “dumpster fire” and says she drafted the resolution because, as the former Davis County GOP Secretary, she “cannot stand by and watch this group destroy the Party.” 

“This proposal simply asks that the county delegates remove the 13 Davis County State Central Committee members who are part of the ‘Gang of 51’ and replace them with alternates. Why? Because, unfortunately, they have shown they are not willing to work with others to find solutions and want to preserve their power regardless of the expense to others. Sadly, this leaves no other option but to remove them,” reads the email.

\20180625 Davis GOP Email

Wright, the ringleader of the “Gang of 51,” advanced to a primary election against incumbent GOP Rep. Ray Ward after losing to Ward at the Davis County GOP Convention.  

Oaks has seven days to appeal to the Davis County GOP Central Committee. If she does, the party has seven days to hold a Central Committee meeting on the appeal.