Utah Republicans purge anti-SB54 zealots from leadership positions

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With the election of former state representative Ryan Wilcox as the new Weber County GOP chair last week, the near-sweep of the Gang of 51 from the Utah Republican Party is complete.

Even if the Weber County GOP had bucked the trend of replacing the Gang of 51’s power on the state party Central Committee, the days of the anti-SB54 zealots were finished.

But Wilcox beat 51-member Bill Olson, who was serving on the 187-member State Central Committee for the top county party Republican job.

Weber County Chair Lynda Pipkin, who oversaw some bizarre county politics in the 2018 elections, didn’t run again.

Under Pipkin’s leadership, the county GOP officially endorsed and gave financial aid to three candidates last year who DID NOT finish first in the convention.

Historically, this is a big no-no.

GOP county Republican Party officers don’t endorse or take sides before a candidate wins the party nomination.

But the three candidates who finished first in the convention had made the political sin of declaring they were collecting signatures under SB54 – the state law (upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) that allows a candidate to decide for himself whether he collects signatures to get on the party primary ballot, or takes the traditional delegate/convention route to make the ballot, or takes both ways at the same time.

Even though the Weber County Republican delegates liked those three candidates the most (giving them first-place finishes at the convention), throwing that vote aside Pipkin and other county officers endorsed the three second-place delegate finishers.

Justice proved out, however, when the three signature candidates won in the final county primary races.

Olson was one of 51 SCC members who signed a letter in December of 2017 calling for a “special” SCC meeting – starting the 18-month battle against former state GOP chair Rob Anderson over SB54.

As UtahPolicy.com has reported this spring, in the major Wasatch Front counties – including conservative Utah County – anti-Gang party candidates swept into party offices, delegates clearly tired of the Gang of 51 antics.

In the May Utah State GOP convention, Derek Brown smashed Phill Wright in the state chair race on the first ballot.

And in county GOP conventions – culminating with the Weber County meeting last week – pro-Gang candidates were defeated by anti-Gang candidates for the State Central Committee.

There’s a U.S. Sen. Mike Lee connection here – Wilcox resigned his Utah House seat to go to work for Lee, and Brown also resigned his House seat to go to work for Lee, although Brown has since left the senator’s office. Wilcox now works for IHC.

Under Wilcox’s leadership, it is unlikely you will see the Weber County GOP endorsing convention-only candidates over signature-gathering candidates before the 2020 Republican primary election.

And another anti-SB54 candidate – Bill Olson – bites the dust.