Could the Utah GOP Actually Kick Out Candidates Who Don’t Go Through Caucuses?

Newly-reelected state Republican Party Chairman James Evans tells UtahPolicy that he doesn’t anticipate Saturday’s GOP convention’s changes in party membership powers will result in anyone being kicked out of Utah’s majority party – especially candidates who take the SB54 nomination route of gathering voter signatures.

Evans said he finds it “strange” that anyone would have so little regard for the 180-member party Central Committee – which was given enhanced powers over party membership by delegates Saturday – that they would think the CC would do such a thing.

That’s not to say, said Evans, that over the next year or so someone in the CC may not make such a formal suggestion.

“But it takes two-thirds vote” for any action in CC to pass. “And I just don’t see it happening.”

Right now, says Evans, he would surmise that party leaders would want future SB54 candidates to be registered Republicans and to sign disclosure statements detailing how they feel about the state party’s platform.

Otherwise, said Evans, one week someone could be a Democrat, switch parties the next week, gather the needed voter signatures “from people who are not Republicans” and get on the GOP primary ballot.

That would not be right, said Evans.

“I don’t care if (a future candidate) disagrees with everything in the (GOP) platform, I just believe they should sign the statement” detailing where they support or disagree with the platform, said Evans, who was re-elected by acclamation in the convention because no one was standing against him.

UtahPolicy has reported – and did so last week – that some party members and officeholders worry that giving the CC membership enforcement powers could lead to SB54 petition-route candidates being kicked from the party – and not being able to run as a Republican in their election.

Evans repeated to UtahPolicy what he had said publicly before – that a federal judge hearing the party’s challenge to SB54 noted that party membership was the place where any party’s leadership should look to control their candidate nomination process – by deciding who can and who can’t be a party member and thus run under the party’s banner.

Any changes by the CC on membership – and remember, Evans said, it would take a two-thirds vote – should only come after great consideration, and with the long-term health of the party in mind, Evans said.

Evans said the new Central Committee, picked in county conventions this spring, is made up of trustworthy folks who do have the best interests of the party at heart.

On another matter, asked by UtahPolicy how he will work with the newly elected party vice-chairman, Phil Wright, Evans responded: “Just fine. Phil and I are friends.”

In the Saturday convention, Evans backed Rick Votaw – a long-time friend of Evans’ and a big financial backer of the state party – for the vice chairman’s post.

But Wright won in a three-way race.

Wright last spring was kicked out of his chairmanship of the Davis County Republican Party, in favor of what is seen as a more moderate Republican.

Wright got into personal battles with some other Davis County party leaders. Also, Wright is a strong opponent of the Legislature’s SB54 candidate nomination compromise bill.

Evans said he has nothing at all against Wright, he just backed Votaw because he believed “at this time in the party” Votaw was best qualified to be second-in-command.

This is the second time Evans has failed to get Votaw into official party leadership – last year Evans asked the Central Committee to make Votaw party treasurer after the sitting treasurer resigned.

But the CC picked someone else for the post.

Then Evans made Votaw a special party consultant/advisor, a position Evans said Monday he may ask Votaw to continue in.

Votaw has done considerable volunteer work for the party over the years, and in the last three years has donated at least $37,000 to the party.