GrassRoots Rankings Give Low Marks to Many GOP Legislators

Utah State Capitol 17Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has received his lowest ranking of all time by the rightwing group GrassRoots.

The group also ranked Utah’s 104 part-time lawmakers, giving some Republicans even lower scores than Herbert.

The GrassRoots group is ultraconservative, and its rankings don’t necessarily reflect the views of conservative Republican voters. Some believe a high ranking by GrassRoots shows a legislator is out of touch with mainstream voters.

It’s not a surprise who tops those rankings, basically the same archconservatives that have done so in previous years.

Herbert is being challenged from the political right this year by chairman Jonathan Johnson, who topped Herbert in last month’s state Republican convention, 55 percent to Herbert’s 45 percent.

The two now face off in the closed June 28 GOP primary, where the latest UtahPolicy poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds Herbert ahead by nearly 60 percentage points among GOP voters.

Don Guymon, head of GrassRoots and a GOP Central Committee member, in the group’s 2016 legislative ranking notes that Herbert’s 24 percent is the worst since he took over the governorship back in 2009, when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned to become ambassador to China.

Herbert since then has won a special election in 2010 to serve out Huntsman’s final two years, then won re-election his own in 2012.

Herbert seeks his second full term this year, and promises this will be his last should he win.

Says Guymon: “Governor Herbert received a 24% compared to his lifetime average of 47%. Herbert’s previous scores were: 71% (2010); 73% (2011); 75% (2012); 28% (2013); 29% (2014); 41% (2015).”

As you can see, Herbert’s GrassRoots scores have gone down in his second term.

You can read the bills GrassRoots used in its rankings, and see Guymon’s reasoning for each.

Here are the legislators’ rankings by the archconservative group.

In the House:

Democrats never do well on the GrassRoots rankings. But some are especially bad.

— Rep. Brad King, D-Price, got a 9 percent ranking out of 100. If King were from Salt Lake City, that would be a badge of courage. But his District 69 has gone to Republicans in recent years, and he’s being challenged this year by former Democratic Rep. Christine Watkins, who switched parties several years ago.

— Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, got only a 13 percent rating. Nelson, an attorney for the LDS Church’s law firm, is considered a moderate Republican. Nelson has no GOP challenger now, but a Democrat is running against him.

— Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, is a UHP lieutenant. He got only a 17 percent GrassRoots ranking. Perry defeated a Republican challenger in the state convention and now faces a Democrat in a very Republican northern Utah district.

— Reps. Kraig Powell, R-Heber, and Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, got a 10 percent and 14 percent rating, respectively. But they are not running for re-election, Powell dropping out after being attacked by a Koch brothers conservative group.

— Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, got a 17 percent rating. He survived a bitter intra-party challenge two years ago but is not challenged by a Republican this time around.

— Rep. Sophia DiCaro, R-West Valley, got only an 18 rating. Her District 31 is a swing district. She won it two years ago only after all ballots were counted in the official canvass. She faces a tough re-election against Democrat Elizabeth Weight this fall.

A bit of a surprise:

— House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who considers himself a conservative, got just a 35 percent ranking from GrassRoots.

— And House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, got just a 27 percent ranking.

In the Senate:

— Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, got the lowest GrassRoots score at 23 percent. But Dabakis probably loves that, being one of the most liberal and outspoken politicians in the state.

— Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake, got second-lowest at 24 percent.

— Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, not known for his political ideology dogma, got just 32 percent. That’s relatively low for a GOP leader.

— But Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, wasn’t far behind, with only a 36 percent rating.

— Davis County Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, who actually has some Westside Salt Lake City constituents, also had a 36 percent rating.

By one vote Weiler, who has battled the party publicly over SB54, eliminated his GOP challenger in the state GOP convention.

— Two of the top GrassRoot rankers – Sens. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs; and Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City – are not running for re-election this year – their seats likely going to new GOP senators after November’s election.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, was appointed late last year and didn’t have a remarkable first general session.

He’s being challenged in a GOP primary by Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan.

Fillmore got a 57 percent GrassRoots ranking, Cunningham a 39 percent ranking. Cunningham lost to Fillmore in December’s delegate race for the appointment, and lost to him at the state GOP convention, also. But Cunningham advances to the primary via SB54’s signature gathering route.

Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, is running for Madsen’s seat. Anderegg beat his GOP primary opponent in the convention. Anderegg got a 55 percent GrassRoots ranking in what must be considered a conservative district.

Guymon says his board of directors picks the 26-odd bills for ranking without regard to officeholders or possible re-election races.