Are county Republican Party leaders in Utah going back to 2002, and punishing county party office holders if they back a non-Republican for a partisan office?
Natalie Gordon, Davis County vice chairwoman, tells UtahPolicy that her office could be taken away from her because on her private Twitter account she put up her face with a small “M” down in the corner, meaning she supports independent U.S. presidential candidate Evan McMullin.
The state GOP doubled-down a week ago and repeated its endorsement of GOP nominee Donald Trump, as many top Utah Republicans – like Gov. Gary Herbert and U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz -- withdrew their Trump support after a sexist audiotape of Trump appeared in the media.
And at last Wednesday’s legislative interim day, half a dozen GOP lawmakers formally endorsed McMullin, a Utah County Mormon, registered Republican and independent U.S. president candidate, who in recent polls is either tied or slightly leads Trump in the Beehive State.
This all harkens back to 2002, when Salt Lake County GOP leaders sent out letters to lower-end GOP officials taking away their party offices for formally endorsing the late-County Councilman Randy Horiuchi, a Democrat, in his election.
Around 50 well-known Republican at that time signed a Horiuchi-endorsement newspaper ad, with about a dozen of those Republicans also holding a lower-end, volunteer county party office.
In that kerfuffle, the county’s governing body – the Central Committee –overruled the party chairman and vice chairman and party officers like Brent Overson (a former state GOP senator and county commissioner) kept their party offices (like delegate or precinct chairman).
According to state Republican Party rules, party officers have to uphold party platforms, stay neutral until a nominee is picked at convention or primary, said James Evans, state GOP chairman.
But at the state party level, officers can back any presidential nominee – Evans backed Mitt Romney earlier this year, and state vice chairman Phil Wright backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
However, the Davis County GOP has different rules – and officers are not to support non-GOP nominees.
Rob Anderson, Davis County GOP chairman, says he got a verbal complaint about Gordon’s “public stand” in favor of McMullin, and by county party rules certain actions must now flow.
“I don’t care who she supports privately,” Anderson told UtahPolicy on Monday. But under county party rules she can’t be public about endorsing someone outside of the party.
Gordon told UPD Monday morning that she was surprised when over the weekend she got an email from Anderson, Davis County chairman, saying she could be removed from her vice chairwomanship if she formally endorses a candidate from another political party.
“I told Rob that I wasn’t endorsing someone from another party. Evan is a registered Republican and he’s running (for president) as an independent,” said Gordon.
She said Anderson then informed her that she also has to support him as chairman. “I have always supported Rob in the party leadership,” she added.
There is an irony here, said Gordon.
Anderson’s wife, Kathleen, was forced from her Davis County GOP office in a fight against the former county chairman (now State GOP vice chairman Wright), over Kathleen’s support for Count My Vote citizen initiative petition.
“And now the same is going to happen to me?” asks Gordon. Plus, said Gordon, Kathleen Anderson is a top Trump Utah campaign staffer; true said Rob Anderson, but that has nothing to do with the Gordon matter.
Gordon said she will not resign her post. And if she is removed will appeal that executive committee decision to the county’s Central Committee.
“I can’t imagine the (Central Committee) will kick me out of office – they are all my friends and neighbors,” said Gordon.
Anderson said this has all been blown out of proportion, but because there was a complaint he has to call the Davis County GOP Ethics Committee together for a hearing. He said he couldn't predict what will happen. “But it will all take place after the (Nov. 8) election and I hope calmer minds” will prevail.
GOP dogma has come into play this year as several local county parties (including David County) officially opposed local GOP candidates who took the SB54 route to the party primary election – bypassing delegates all together -- or who took the petition and convention route simultaneously, but failed to get at least 40 percent of their delegate vote.
Gordon said after she put her current problem up on Twitter, her account exploded with support. “I had to turn my Twitter account off,” she said.
She added she has never supported Trump and believes McMullin is a viable alternative “because he supports our Utah values,” and that the Utah GOP may well have to rebuild itself after Trump loses the presidency, and McMullin could be an aid in that effort.
“When all this (election) is over with we do need to heal the party,” said Anderson. And he’s sorry this material with Gordon has exploded in public, but that was her reaction to him informing her of the complaint, which now must go forward to some conclusion.