The “rational” Republicans’ statewide attempts to take back control of the state party’s Central Committee continued Friday evening as the deadline passed for Utah County candidates.
A review of the county GOP’s 71 candidates filing for the 22 slots on the state party Central Committee shows a number of folks who may be called “rational” – or people who want to end state party infighting, heal financial woes, and work towards electing Republicans to office, rather than continue fighting against SB54.
Those slots will be voted on by county delegates – not state GOP delegates -- in the April 27 Utah County GOP convention at Mountain View High School.
One surprise jumps out among the Utah County filings – Dave Bateman, CEO of Entrata, who picked up the state party’s debt to attorneys who carried the anti-SB54 lawsuits, is running for a state Central Committee slot.
The $400,000+ debt was whittled down to around $200,000 by Bateman, who just last week announced on Facebook that he wouldn’t hold the party liable for any of it. Bateman on the Central Committee would clearly be an advocate for the "Gang of 51," a group of hardline members of the State Central Committee who hate the state's dual-track nominating system and continue efforts to dismantle it.
Bateman also financed the Keep My Voice effort last year that kept the Count My Vote pro-SB54 citizen initiative petition off of the 2018 November ballot.
Stewart Peay filed Friday morning for county party chair. Current chair Roger Craig is not running again.
Peay has only one opponent, Ben Stanley, the Pleasant Grove City councilman whom GOP Gary Herbert refused to appoint to the UTA board last year, saying he was unqualified.
Peay ran in the special 2017 U.S. House 3rd District election and was eliminated in the delegate convention along with a slew of other Republicans.
Peay, a Salt Lake City attorney, was endorsed in that race by Ann Romney, wife of now-Utah U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, both of whom are well-known in state Republican politics.
UtahPolicy.com has obtained a list of the "Gang of 51" (and a few of their clear supporters not on the Central Committee now, but running for a slot this month). And according to those counts, there are seven Gang of 51 members/supporters signed up to run for state Central Committee slots in Utah County. UtahPolicy.com is told there are 10 current Gang of 51 folks out of Utah County, or 45 percent of the 22 slots the county gets on the Central Committee.
These include current state party secretary Lisa Shepherd, who is also running for re-election in the May 4 state GOP convention.
State party officers are automatically on the Central Committee, so if Shepherd is re-elected, someone else would take her Utah County slot.
As reported several times in UtahPolicy.com, Herbert and Utah Republican legislative leaders, among others, are recruiting “reasonable” or “rational” -- both terms have been used -- candidates to run in the various 29 county Republican parties for slots on the state party’s Central Committee – the 187-member body that ultimately controls party operations.
Back in December 2017, a group of 51 archconservative Central Committee members – later known as the "Gang of 51" – signed a letter calling for a “special meeting” of the Central Committee.
At that meeting and later, the gang attempted to push through – or did push through – various bylaw changes aimed at stopping GOP candidates from taking the SB54-approved signature-gathering route to the party’s closed primary election.
They had just seen then-Provo Mayor John Curtis – rejected by a special 3rdCongressional District delegate convention – win a primary election and beat the delegates’ hand-picked candidate, Chris Herrod, by getting the needed voter signatures.
And they didn’t like it. Not one bit.
Now many, but not all, of the "Gang of 51" are running in their county GOP conventions this month for re-election to the state party Central Committee.
Since 2014, when SB54 passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed by Herbert into law, archconservatives on the Central Committee have pushed an anti-SB54 lawsuit so far as to bankrupt the state party – before Bateman stepped in.
The "Gang of 51" fully support the lawsuits, and some of them still refuse to give up the legal fight, even though they have lost in federal court time and again, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month refused to hear the case.
Utah County Republicans have a different Central Committee voting process than most other counties.
There they elect state Central Committee members according to state Senate districts, with most of the districts having four or five Central Committee slots.
Thus, how many candidates are filing in each district determines how many opponents one may have – and accordingly, the "Gang of 51" candidates don’t want to face each other in a Senate district, for that would harm both of their chances for election.
Bateman is facing eight other candidates for two slots, including former GOP state House Rep. Craig Frank.