Bob Bernick’s notebook: Stick to the script

Bernick Mug 01

Note to future organizers of Utah Republican Party conventions: Hire Rob Anderson and Curt Bramble to run the convention for you.

Just over two hours. That is how long the “convened” portion of last Saturday’s state GOP convention lasted.

Yes, delegates were there from before the 10 a.m. “start time” until just after 1 p.m. adjournment.

But if you were paying close attention – and I and Managing Editor Bryan Schott were – you noticed that outgoing party chair Rob Anderson walked to the podium in the Utah Valley University center at 10 a.m., but didn’t pound the gavel.

He didn’t officially start the convention.

He just started talking, welcoming the delegates (barely over half ultimately arrived) and then called on Republican officeholders, like U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, to address the delegates.

And so the convention started WITHOUT adopting the rules and agenda – two items that in recent conventions have taken up to four hours to finally accomplish because a few wise-ass delegates wanted to fight over about everything.

It wasn’t until around 11 a.m. that Anderson – without explaining what was happening – asked state Sen. Curt Bramble to come up to the podium.

Bramble arrived with a large black three-ring folder, opened it up and started to explain that he was conducting the early “business” part of the convention – adopting the rules and agenda. And he called the convention to order.

This is where the 2018 state GOP nominating convention fell apart – and if you looked over at the main floor mic Saturday, you saw the same group of Gang of 51 nutcakes lined up to speak.

One delegate, after some misunderstanding between him and Bramble, did get the delegates to agree to a rule change so that delegates’ “clicker” voting pads would be recorded next to their names and made public so their votes would be known – except that some delegates didn’t sign their names next to their clicker rentals so those votes wouldn’t be recorded, anyway.

Still, when Gang of 51er delegate Cherilyn Eagar next got to the microphone (Bramble had already warned that he may not call on delegates if they crowded around the microphone so as to keep other delegates from speaking – an old Gang of 51 stalling tactic), Bramble explained that only certain motions would be in order by Robert’s Rules.

Eagar attempted to make several motions that were out of order – and so ruled by Bramble. Flustered, she then said she wanted to read a brief statement (presumably about how “unfair” the convention was being run). But Bramble wouldn’t allow that, either.

As the script provided, a delegate from the floor yelled “call the question,” which means a vote will be taken to stop debate and adopt the motion – which was to accept the rules.

A vote was taken on the accepting the rules, even though clearly some Gang of 51 delegates wanted to argue over them some more.

And by a large majority, the delegates screamed to adopt the rules.

Bramble then recognized former state party chair James Evans, who was clearly in on the script, even though Evans was NOT at the front of the speaker’s microphone line, but standing off to the side.

A hand mic was given to Evans so he didn’t have to shoulder any of the Gang of 51ers away from the standing floor mic.

Evans moved that the convention agenda be amended to drop from consideration the 24 proposed bylaw and constitutional changes. This would cut hours off of the convention time.

But Bramble was looking around, perhaps wondering where the next scripted-delegate person was.

She soon turned up at the other microphone, and Bramble interrupted Evans to go to her. She moved that all debate be limited to 10 minutes – a motion that it turned out wasn’t needed. But according to the script, Bramble recognized her, someone called the question, and the delegates again screamed in favor of the 10-minute limit.

Back to Evans, Bramble went, and Evans moved to drop the bylaw/constitutional changes from the agenda. That passed by a huge vote.

And the Gang of 51ers standing behind the microphone were doomed.

They walked away a bit stunned, several shaking their heads.

Bramble was so far ahead of the script, I watched as he flipped forward in his book looking to where the convention really was – so he could find the appropriate page and continue.

He got there and the convention “agenda” – well scripted – really took off, galloping toward speeches and voting by the delegates on the real reason they were there – to pick new party officers.

But the loud shouting votes by delegates to quickly move through the adoption of the rules and the agenda was foreshadowing of what was to come:

A resounding defeat in the chair’s race of Phill Wright, who was the nominal leader of the Gang of 51. Wright ended up with a smaller percentage of the delegate vote than he received two years ago when he lost the chair’s race to Anderson.

The defeat of the vice chair and secretary incumbents, who were also tied to the Gang.

And a clean sweep of those Gang supporters who wanted to continue the bitter battle over SB54 – the dual path candidate law the Gang members so hate.

It was, some GOP old-timers recalled, the shortest state Republican Convention in recent memory.

In by 10 a.m., out before 2 p.m.

Gone the 10-hour convention of a year before.

No catcalls against the party officers from the stands.

No bickering over rules and the agenda – although that is clearly what some Gang of 51 delegates sought before being shouted down by the majority of delegates in procedural votes.

It was not a good day for Democrats, who would have been greatly helped if Wright et al. had won the day and disrupted the convention and the party for the next two years.

It was a good day for reclaiming the Utah Republican Party by “reasonable” folks – and to a great extent you can thank Anderson, Bramble, Evans and other party insiders who scripted the convention so very, very well.

And the majority of the delegates who went along with it.

Thank you all.