GOP Elephant 01

The Utah GOP has a new rule on the books that gives a major advantage to candidates who eschew signature gathering to get on the primary ballot in favor of the traditional convention system.

The rule, approved Saturday by the GOP State Central Committee, requires the party to promote and give assistance to candidates who reach the primary ballot through the caucus and convention system while denying that support to those who secure a spot through signature gathering.

That means party officers and staffers can now endorse and work for candidates who are advanced to the primary ballot by the convention. Previously, they were required to remain neutral until after a nominee was selected in the primary.

The new rule requires party officers and staffers to deny access to “Party information and services” to signature path candidates. This is a significant change as the state party is effectively blocking them from a variety of party resources, including delegate lists, voter lists and possibly even a place at the GOP state convention, since those are services provided by the party. 

Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown says he’s not sure what impact the rule change will have on the party since it’s not clear what is defined as a “party resource.”

“We’re not sure how we’re going to implement this since we’ve never had to deal with something like this before,” says Brown.

The new rule would also prohibit signature candidates from using the party's bulk-mail privileges for campaign mailers, which could mean a significant increased cost.

The change is described as a "carrot" instead of a "stick" to encourage candidates to utilize the traditional convention path instead of signatures.

That could have a major effect on the race for the GOP nomination for governor this year. There are 7 candidates vying to replace Gov. Gary Herbert, who is retiring after this term. 5 of them are actively working to gather the 28,000 signatures to get on the primary ballot, while just two have decided to focus on qualifying for the primary through the convention. 

The new rule goes into effect immediately, essentially changing the rules of the game midway through the election cycle.