Bob Bernick’s Notebook: GOP Endorsement Follies

bernick mugThe Utah Republican Party is about to make a big mistake.

But this is not new.

The current leadership of the party – including the 4,000 delegates and 180-member Central Committee – are getting used to making mistakes.

Still, this is one they could avoid – but probably won’t.

Saturday the CC will meet to discuss whether the party should abandon a long-held bylaw and practice of NOT endorsing GOP candidates before the nomination is achieved – either through the county and state convention delegate vote, or the vote of registered GOP voters in a closed primary.

The CC would be wise not to endorse congressional, state and multi-county legislative candidates before the nomination is finalized.

But more likely, the governing body will do just the opposite – following the lead of the Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis county parties.

This, of course, is all about SB54 – and the state party’s misadvised and mislead fight to repeal and/or blunt the new law.

As UtahPolicy readers know, the 2014 GOP-controlled Legislature passed SB54, the dual candidate route to the primary law. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed it.

This is the first election cycle the law takes effect.

The state GOP has already lost two rounds of lawsuits in Utah Federal Court and a direct appeal to the Utah Supreme Court over SB54.

Blocked on their unconstitutional claims (all rejected), party leaders are now looking for ways to punish GOP candidates who take the signature-gathering route to the party’s primary ballot.

The latest idea: Officially “endorse” or “sanction” only candidates who appear before the state GOP convention delegates and get at least 40 percent of the vote.

Those GOP candidates who don’t go to the convention at all (as allowed under SB54 signatures), or who go both the signature and convention routes at the same time (also allowed under SB54), but who don’t get 40 percent of their delegate votes, would be officially opposed by the party leaders.

Wow!

That would have meant that if SB54 were in place in 2004 incumbent GOP Gov. Olene Walker could have gathered signatures, failed to get at least 40 percent of the state delegate vote, and end up running against Jon Huntsman Jr. and Nolan Karras in the GOP primary – and being officially opposed by the Utah State Republican Party.

Same thing for former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010 – he didn’t get 40 percent of the delegate vote, and like Walker was driven from office.

So image this case: A sitting GOP governor and a sitting U.S. senator OPPOSED by their own state party in the primary election.

How stupid would the state GOP look in those cases? Especially if Walker and/or Bennett would have won their primary races.

You can answer that question yourself.

If the state GOP acts like it may well on Saturday, 3rd Congressional District GOP candidate Chai-Chi Teng, who has been certified to the June 28 ballot by getting 7,000 GOP voter signatures, would be opposed by his own party.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, got more than 60 percent of the 3rd District delegate vote in the April GOP state convention – and in the eyes of the anti-SB54 state Republican Party he is their ONLY nominee.

Now, the primary GOP ballot will not say Chaffetz is the GOP nominee, and won’t say that the party endorses only Chaffetz.

But you can bet Chaffetz’ ads will say so, if the state CC does what I think it will Saturday.

Not only that, but Teng could well be denied any party help – in fact probably would be.

He wouldn’t get GOP voter lists or emails or telephone numbers. He wouldn’t get any party financial aid, and such.

Even though a UtahPolicy poll by Dan Jones & Associates shows that most GOP rank-and-file voters DON’T want their party bosses endorsing candidates before the nomination is decided by those very own voters, watch for the state GOP to once again – in their eternal hatred of SB54 – go against their own rank-and-file party member preferences.

After all, who are the most important members of the Utah Republican Party? The rank-and-file voters, or the party insiders/bosses?

Well, we already know the answer to that one.