GOP Delegates Boot One Incumbent, Send Another to a Primary

One and done for Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price.


He was soundly booted from his House District 69 in the state Republican Party Convention on Saturday.

In the same race, former House Democratic leadership member Christine Watkins failed in her attempt to switch parties and win.

GOP newcomer Bill Labrum won the three-way party nomination outright on the first ballot, getting 28 out of 55 delegate votes.

In another close contest, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, barely avoided being cast from office.

Former Sen. Casey Anderson got 86 votes in the first round and needed 87 to get 60 percent and defeat Vickers.

The race now goes to a June primary.

The Vickers/Anderson race was a test of the impact of SB54 and delegate anger across the state.

SB54 is the “grand compromise” bill that, unless changed by the 2015 Legislature, will blunt delegates’ candidate nomination powers in the 2016 election cycle – providing that candidates can advance to the party primary via gathering a set number of voter signatures.

Vickers voted for SB54.

And Casey Anderson has campaigned, in part, on his opposition to the compromise bill, now law.

In fact, Casey Anderson spent about half of his speech before delegates Saturday lambasting Vickers’ vote, the Count My Vote citizen initiative, and SB54.

He said Vickers and other GOP lawmakers who voted for SB54 sold out delegates and “waved the white flag” of defeat when in fact if they had held strong the CMV petition may very well have been declared void by the Utah Elections Office because of alleged petition gathering violations.

Casey Anderson said it was time for a real conservative in the Senate 28 seat; time for new faces in the Senate.

“Send a message to the Legislature” by defeating Vickers, said Casey Anderson. “Our (delegate) vote is not for sale.”

Vickers was nominated by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who used to hold a House seat within Senate 28.

Casey Anderson has said that Vickers just wasn’t enthusiastic enough, or conservative enough.

Cox said Vickers is a true conservative, who can be counted on to vote the conservative line.

Vickers himself was enthusiastic in his speech. “I’ve worked my butt off for you,” he shouted to the delegates, pointing out that he has lost 65 pounds over the last two years.

(Senate seats are usually for four years. But Senate 28 was made a two-year term in 2012 in order to equal out the 29 Senate terms – about half up for election every two years.)

There was a bit of confusion in the House 69 contest.

Because the Grand County GOP rules say candidates win in convention with just 50 percent of the votes, even though the other three counties in House 69 – Emery, Carbon and Duchesne – have the normal 60 percent nomination rule, state rules on multi-county legislative districts says the lowest threshold is the nomination level.

Jerry Anderson, who defeated Watkins (when she was the Democratic incumbent) two years ago, only got two delegate votes – a crushing defeat.

Watkins got 21 votes and Labrum 28. Twenty-six votes were needed to get over 50 percent.

Although well liked in Carbon County, Watkins said there was nothing she could do against a GOP wave in 2012.

After her loss, she immediately changed her party registration and announced she would run against Jerry Anderson in 2014 as a Republican.

She has clearly been working hard since then, and Saturday said she agrees with conservative GOP moral stands, and would fight for gun rights and multi-use of public lands.

If she had won the nomination in the convention, it would have been the first time in anyone’s memory where a leader in one chamber’s body switched parties and won the opposing party’s nomination at the next election.

GOP Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, actually introduced Watkins in the House 69 caucus meeting.

He said that many Carbon County residents have switched to the Republican Party recently.

He said he knew Watkins was a conservative person, having traveled with her many times to joint town hall meetings.

But Labrum stressed that he’s been a Republican all his life, and has lived those ideas.

House 69 has, for as long as anyone can remember, sent a Price-area representative to the Legislature.

Should Labrum win in November, he would be the first person from outside Carbon County to hold the post.

Labrum faces Democrat Brad King, who held the seat for years before running for the Senate four years ago, losing to Hinkins.

Two other issues bubbled up early in the convention – a daylong event held in the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy:

— A number of delegates were upset to see a full-page ad in the official GOP, leaf-paper sized convention book taken out by Equality Utah.

Equality Utah is the leading gay rights organization in the state.

And any number of rank-and-file GOP members are against same-sex marriage, which has been a big issue in Utah over the last six months.

The ad says: “Stay ahead of the curve. Become an Equality Utah endorsed candidate.” It then gives a personal email address for the group’s executive director.

State GOP chairman James Evans told UtahPolicy that such complaints are illogical.

“Any Republican can take out an ad in the (convention brochure) and give their point of view. That is all this is.”

A full-page ad cost $1,250, and the booklet sells ads as an attempt to offset the cost of printing the booklet and run the convention. There were 10 pages of ads, some taken out by candidates in the convention.

Later in the convention, one delegate went to a floor microphone and asked Evans why the ad – which is against the party platform, allowed?

Evans told the convention that the head of Equality Utah is a registered Republican.

“We are Americans, and we don’t censor people,” said Evans as some delegates cheered. Each delegate and party member can have an opinion on Equality Utah’s goals. “This is why they were allowed in.”

— As often happens in any state GOP convention, there was a fight over the credentials of more than 100 so-called “automatic delegates.”

Those are delegates who got their state convention status because they hold county, state or federally elected offices.

The battle has become a normal convention fight.

Officially, the “automatic” delegates are approved at their local county GOP conventions. Some counties don’t allow automatic delegates.

Opponents to such delegates argue all state GOP delegates should be elected at the March neighborhood Republican Party caucuses.