Don’t expect lawmakers to try and get rid of signature route for candidates this year

Utah Capitol 29

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ended the court battle over Utah’s law allowing candidates to gather signatures to secure a spot on a political party’s primary ballot, don’t expect lawmakers to try and repeal the law in the final days of the 2019 legislature.

Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said Monday morning he would not attempt to resurrect his bill to undo the SB54 compromise this year.

“At some point, we need to get past arguing about election law,” said McCay.

The legal fight over the SB54 compromise, which allows candidates to pursue a spot on the primary ballot through the traditional convention system, gathering signatures, or both, began shortly after the legislature passed the original bill at the end of the 2014 session. That battle nearly bankrupted the Utah Republican Party because many big donors who supported the compromise stopped donating to the party.

McCay says he hopes the Supreme Court refusal to hear the case on Monday ends the political infighting.

“Things need to calm down. We need to not make this THE issue that we’re all focusing on,” he said.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he’s a proponent of the traditional convention system, but allowing signature gathering candidates to get on the ballot is now a settled issue as far as the current crop of lawmakers is concerned.

“This will give a chance for the parties to try and unify and repair relationships,” he said.

Adams was asked if the GOP should be on the hook for the legal fees the state incurred fighting this battle for several years all the way to the Supreme Court.

“I wasn’t going to go there, but why shouldn’t they,” said Adams.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said Monday he doesn’t see much, if any, desire among Senate Republicans to repeal the candidate dual-pathway law in the future, either.

While some Senate Republicans may have more sympathy with their party right-wingers who hate SB54 and want it gone, Vickers is a product of the dual pathway law, having survived some nasty, archconservative challenges down in his home area of Iron County.

Vickers didn’t have a challenger in 2018, where he easily won re-election in Senate District 28.

But he still signed up for the signature route early last year, because he didn’t know if he was going to be beaten about the head again by some Iron County right-wingers – as he has before.

But in 2014 former GOP Sen. Casey Anderson went after Vickers in a tough primary, which saw several of the Iron County Republican Party leaders opposing Vickers in a weird dance – where Vickers was attacked for his original support of the SB54 compromise with Count My Vote that year.

In any case, Vickers has been through the SB54 GOP internal battles and supports the dual pathway to the Republican primary ballot.

There’s seemingly no appetite to get rid of the signature-gathering route in the House either. House leadership sources tell that they are aware of no bills that would alter the current candidate path.