In a move that’s seemingly targeted at Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson, a group of hardliners on the State Central Committee is pushing a change to the party’s governing documents that would make it easier for that body to remove a party officer from their post.
The proposal put forward by Weber County member Bob McEntee drops the requirement for removing a party officer from 60% of all the voting members of the State Central Committee to a ⅔ vote of those present at a meeting, as long as at least half of the SCC members are in attendance.
There are 186 members of the SCC. Under the old rules, that means it takes 112 members to remove a party officer. This new rule would drop that threshold to 62.
The group of hardliners on the SCC, also known as the “Gang of 51,” has wreaked havoc within the Utah GOP since their leader, Phill Wright, was defeated by Rob Anderson in 2017 in the race for party chairman. Since that time, the group has held several “emergency meetings” on rule changes that were scheduled at inconvenient times and places to make it difficult for the more moderate members of the group to attend.
It’s hard to imagine this rule is not directed at Anderson, who has been the subject of ire from this band of contrarian members since his surprise election where he vowed to end the party’s financially disastrous lawsuit against SB54, which established the current dual-track path for candidates to get on the ballot. That vow did not go over well with this wing of the SCC who have railed against SB54 because it diluted the power of the traditional caucus/convention system to choose party nominees. The SCC overrode Anderson on the SB54 lawsuit, entering into an agreement with Dave Bateman who stepped forward to acquire the party’s debt in order to continue the legal fight.
The far-right extremist faction also attempted to defy state election law earlier this year by passing a bylaw that potentially could have kicked Republican candidates off the ballot. That proposal was essentially ignored by state election officials to the great relief of the GOP. The bylaw change was an apparent attempt to provoke another legal fight with the state over SB54.
McEntee argues in his proposal that it’s rare for the SCC to have every member show up, so the 60% requirement is a near impossible bar to clear if removal of a party officer is warranted. He says the average attendance at 47 meetings is around 104 members, which is short of the 112 votes.
“The SCC, like the Senate, is entrusted with removal authority so the body can cleanse itself from unethical or ineffective leadership. We currently have no ethics committee and depend on the SCC alone to remove a party officer for any cause (ethics, ineffective leadership, other egregious causes). Our current Constitution makes this a practical impossibility
“This change reflects the reality of attendance at SCC meetings. Those not present are effectively counted as ‘No’ votes by their absence currently, suppressing the vote of the majority who are present. Those not attending should not have their vote presumed.”
The proposal must get a ⅔ vote from the SCC in order to be forwarded to the state convention where party delegates will be able to approve or reject the change.