James Evans 01

A former Utah state Republican Party chairman is asking all racial and ethnic minorities in the state to register as Republicans and vote in the closed party primary June 30.

James Evans, who served two terms as state chairman, is an African-American businessman and one of the few black GOP leaders in the state.

In an interview with UtahPolicy.com several days ago, Evans said he was seriously considering calling on all Utah communities of color -- regardless of their current party voter registration -- to come into the GOP primary to vote for governor and attorney general, or any other GOP primary candidate that may be on their primary ballot so “their voice can be heard” in these challenging times.

Wednesday night, Evans sent out a press release to the media saying just that.

Evans wrote: “Voters in this June primary will decide the next governor and attorney general. I want all minority voters to be the deciding factor after the George Floyd tragedy -- to send a clear message that things have got to change for the good of all Utahns.”

The political irony in this is clear: Evans was the party chairman during the formative legal battles when party leadership sued over SB54 -- the 2014 compromise law where legislators and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert installed a new pathway for candidates to get on the closed GOP primary ballot -- signature gathering.

There was talk then among certain right-wing GOP insiders (not Evans) that the state party should set up some kind of committee that could decide who could be party members -- although this never happened.

Later, after Evans left the chairmanship, the State Central Committee did adopt a bylaw (considered illegal by the Utah Elections Office) that said the only “party-approved” way for a candidate to get on the ballot is through the caucus/delegate/convention route -- not via SB54’s signature-gathering route.

In any case, Evans now says: “I am calling on all community and religious organizations to help get the word out to vote” in the GOP primary election.

“If minorities want to see the desired change in elected officials, it is imperative to change their voting behavior this time.”

Speaking to Utah minorities, Evans wrote: “Politicians listen to what the ballot box says -- I strongly encourage you to make your voice heard there.”

Evans does not endorse or call on voters to back any one or two candidates. But he is right when he says the GOP gubernatorial and attorney general primary election will almost assuredly pick the nominee that will win in November. Utah hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1980; not elected a Democratic AG since the mid-1990s.

Evans goes on to say that anyone can register to vote, and become a Republican, or a registered voter can change his or her party designation to Republican by going to vote.utah.gov and following the instructions.

The deadline to do so is June 19 at 5 p.m.

Mail-in ballots started hitting Utah households Tuesday, but there is still time to register as a Republican and get a GOP ballot.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman, who served as governor 2005 to 2009, is openly asking those who traditionally vote for GOP candidates in November to register as a Republican now and vote for him in the primary -- where he says the next Utah governor will be picked.

That campaign tactic has been criticized by several of the other three gubernatorial candidates and by well-known Republicans across the state -- with some GOP legislators already promising legislation in the 2021 Legislature to curtail that kind of party-switching.

In his UtahPolicy.com interview, Evans said minorities -- who may not now be registered Republicans -- need to have a say in the GOP primary because that is where officeholders throughout the state will be picked -- the November general election nothing more than a formality.

Evans believes that upwards of 30,000 independents, even Democrats will be coming into the June GOP primary, in part because of Huntsman’s efforts.

Huntsman’s lieutenant governor running mate is Michelle Kaufusi, the mayor of Provo and wife to Steve Kaufusi, a former assistant football coach at Brigham Young University. Steve Kaufusi is of American-Polynesian decent, and UtahPolicy.com is told the Huntsman campaign is making a concerted effort to register American-Polynesians who may not currently be registered voters or get them to register as Republicans to vote for the Huntsman/Kaufusi ticket.

The latest UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News poll by Y2 Analytics finds that Huntsman trails Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox by 7 percentage points, 39-32 percent, among Republicans likely to vote in the primary.

But among those who are non-Republicans who “lean” Republican and may register GOP to vote in the primary, Huntsman holds a large lead over Cox.

Now a former GOP state chairman is calling on all Utah minorities to come into the Utah Republican party and vote in the primary -- although he doesn’t ask them to vote for a certain candidate.