A mixed result in the Utah County Republican Party elections Saturday, with what may be called a “reasonable” candidate winning as the new county party chair, but some Gang of 51 supporters taking a few state Central Committee slots, as well.
Local attorney Stewart Peay was elected chair, with 56 percent of the vote.
Vice Chair is Carolina Herrin.
Secretary is Karen Ellingson.
And the new treasurer is Brandon Loveland. The winners are listed here.
Of the seven of the “Gang of 51” seeking re-election to the state party’s Central Committee, only three won seats in the Utah County GOP convention – clearly a defeat overall.
However, two big “Gang of 51” folks are going into the 187-member state Central Committee – Dave Bateman and Lowell Nelson.
Bateman, you may recall, spent more than $200,000 in picking up the state party’s attorney’s fees over the party’s lawsuits against SB54.
Nelson has been a strong anti-SB54 advocate for years, and he is now sent back to the Central Committee by county delegates in Senate District 14.
Current state party secretary Lisa Shepherd won a Central Committee seat from Senate District 7.
As secretary, Shepherd gets a seat on the Central Committee. She is running for re-election to her secretary slot, and if she wins in the state convention May 4, then the first alternate in her state Central Committee slot will fill in for that post.
If she loses her state secretary post, then she will still be on the Central Committee because of her win Saturday in the county convention.
UtahPolicy.com is told that before Saturday’s county convention (Washington County GOP also held its convention), there were 12 current members of the Gang of 51 re-elected during county April conventions.
With the wins Saturday in the Utah County Republican Convention, that number grows to 15.
Still, that is significantly less than the 51 Central Committee members who signed a December 2017 letter calling for a special meeting of the State Central Committee.
It was at that special CC meeting where the antics, the internal bylaw battles, began over SB54 – the dual path law passed by the 2014 GOP-controlled Legislature that allows a candidate to choose for himself whether he gathers voter signatures to make the primary ballot, takes the historical delegate/convention route, or takes both routes at the same time.
Over the past year-and-a-half, the “Gang of 51” have passed bylaws that violate state law, and which could have gotten a number of GOP candidates kicked off of the 2018 ballot – aimed at getting the state Republican Party back into court over SB54.
The Gang of 51 also “investigated” current chair Rob Anderson’s refusal to pass along the illegal bylaw to the Utah Elections Office, a transgression that got him “censured” by the Central Committee earlier this spring.
The state Republican Party sued back in 2015 over SB54 – losing once before the Utah Supreme Court, twice in federal court trials, lost before the 10thCircuit Court of Appeals, and last month before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lawsuit has basically bankrupted the party, which saw a number of traditional big-money donors walking away.
The party still has a $100,000 debt and can’t afford to rent electronic voting equipment for the May 4 state convention – so paper ballots will be used by the 4,000 delegates in voting for new party officers.
Anderson is not running again. There are four chair candidates, including Phill Wright, a “Gang of 51” member (and Bateman employee), and former Utah GOP House member Derek Brown, who is not a “Gang of 51” follower – but is being supported by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, and others.
If Wright wins, then the party’s SB54 battles will likely continue.
In the end, you have to love how conservative Utah County GOP delegates are.
Saturday, there was only one resolution before the 866-or-so delegates in attendance.
The resolution called for civility in the state Central Committee – and delegates voted it down.