Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Some Suggestions for the GOP’s Fight Against SB54

Ok, you can say I have a devious mind, but…

I was thinking the other day what could be next in the Utah Republican Party saga of the “truth commission?”

You know, Utah GOP Chairman James Evans’ idea – yet to be adopted by the party’s governing body, the Central Committee – that the party have a way to “scrutinize” candidates who in 2016 take the new SB54 petition-gathering route to the party’s primary ballot.

Evans says all he wants (damn the liberal media for blowing this all out of proportion) is some way for the party to ensure that candidates seeking to run under the Republican Party’s banner – or “brand,” as Evans likes to call it – really do believe in GOP principles: Specifically state and county Republican platforms.

Now, that sounds reasonable, and all well and good.

But Evans’ idea of a special party committee interviewing petition-gathering candidates, having them sign a pledge to the platform, or detail exactly where they differ from the platform – and the party then informing GOP primary voters about those differences — really can break down.

Here’s how:

What if the next step for GOP insiders/hardliners is to change the party platform – the document that petition candidates must swear to?

What if delegates to the Aug. 15, 2015 GOP state convention change the platform to include 1) a statement against SB54 and the Count My Vote citizen petition, 2) call for people who sign the petition or (if a legislator) support SB54 to have their party membership repealed, 3) claim that only candidates who go through the caucus/convention process can be endorsed by the party, leaving the possibility that petition candidates can’t run under the GOP banner?

These are just a few of the possibilities my devious mind could come up with. And I didn’t even try that hard.

No doubt there could be other ways to change the party platform/constitution in ways that would discourage, or even prohibit, candidates from taking the SB54 allowed route of gathering signatures to get on the GOP primary ballot.

When Evans ran for the party chairmanship two years ago, he told delegates he had a strategy to deal with the Count My Vote citizen initiative petition.

He declined to say what that was, not wanting to tip his hand to the evil CMV folks who were in the process of gathering initiative petition signatures.

A secret plan to end the CMV/SB54 war?

We older folks remember when Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968 saying he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon won the presidency. And he did end the war, although it took him four years and half of all the Americans killed in the war died under Nixon’s administration.

Evans is running for re-election as chairman this year. It is unclear if he will have a significant opponent although rumors run rampant that some in the party are actively looking for such a challenger.

It will be tough to unseat Evans – after all, he’s doing what the delegates want: Fight SB54 tooth and nail.

So there will be an interesting debate inside the GOP over the next few months.

And the Aug. 15 state GOP convention could be a real doozy.

Where do Republicans go?

Adopt a “truth commission” to screen candidates who take the petition gathering route?

Change their platform and bylaws to discourage, or even ban, candidates who seek the petition route from running under the GOP “brand?”

Re-elect Evans as chairman with marching orders to keep up the federal lawsuit against SB54 – passed by a GOP Legislature, signed by a GOP governor – and battle at all costs for the caucus/convention candidate nominating system?

Or will GOP delegates decide to change party rules to comply with SB54, become a Qualified Political Party and thus keep the caucus/convention route alive (even if the delegates hate the new law), and go into the 2016 election cycle somewhat together, their aim to elect Republicans to office?

Stay tuned, my friends. It’s going to be an interesting and rocky road ahead.