UtahPolicy.com is told that the official Keep My Voice effort which has been associated with Entrata boss Dave Bateman may be over, at least for now.
Phill Wright, who headed up KMV, and two assistants have been laid off from Entrata. Wright previously had been chairman of the Davis County GOP and ran unsuccessfully for state party chairman and legislative offices. Wright was the Director of Government Relations for Entrata, but his Facebook says he left the company in June.
Bateman has a policy of not speaking with UtahPolicy.com. Entrata is a successful Utah-County-based software firm, which Bateman founded and controls, that mainly sells property-management software.
Bateman donated $16,000 to the Keep My Voice PAC this year ahead of the Utah GOP primaries. The PAC donated to Republican candidates Karen Hyatt and Jordan Teuscher. Hyatt lost her primary challenge to Sen. Wayne Harper while Teuscher was successful in winning the GOP nomination to replace Rep. Kim Coleman. Previously, donations to KMV from Bateman came through Entrata.
As UtahPolicy.com readers may recall, Keep My Voice sprung up specifically to oppose the 2018 citizen initiative petition being run that year by Count My Vote, an ongoing effort by some leading Utah former officeholders and civic leaders to open up Utah’s election primary process by giving federal, state and county candidates an alternative route to a primary ballot from the traditional political party caucus/delegate/convention route.
CMV stopped their 2014 citizen initiative process when the state Legislature, controlled by Republicans, and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert adopted SB54, which sets up a voter signature route to primary ballots while keeping the traditional candidate convention route, as well.
A group of hard GOP right-wingers hate SB54 and have tried to get the Utah Legislature to repeal it year after year. All efforts have failed.
At first, while they controlled the Central Committee of the state GOP, the anti-SB54 group sued in state and federal court, trying to overturn SB54. They lost in both places, basically bankrupting the state party in the process.
They appealed the case all the way to the Utah Supreme Court, which upheld SB54.
On the federal court side, they appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld SB54. Bateman took over the state party’s legal bills, settling up with their attorneys.
However, KMV won a significant victory in 2018. After CMV got the required number of voter signatures statewide, and 10 percent of the voter signatures in 26 of 29 state Senate districts -- a citizen initiative petition requirement -- KMV successfully got a few hundred rural voters who signed the CMV petition to take their names off -- thus killing the CMV petition (which sought to memorialize SB54 with a citizen approval vote in that November’s general election).
CMV went to state court, but KMV prevailed before the Utah Supreme Court in upholding the current citizen initiative petition law.
While a number of citizens and financial big-hitters supported Count My Vote, Keep My Voice was basically bankrolled by Bateman’s Entrata -- which employed Wright and two others, who, UtahPolicy.com is told, were laid off last week from the software firm.
This doesn’t mean that anti-SB54 hard-liner GOP legislators and individuals will stop an effort to get the Legislature and new governor (most likely Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who has won the GOP nomination) to repeal or gut SB54.
However, leaders of Count My Vote, which include former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt, have said time and again any effort to repeal or gut SB54 will be met by a brand new citizen initiative petition -- this time with the intent of gathering enough signatures in rural Senate districts to stop KMV, or any other anti-SB54 group, from getting enough signature-signers to take their names off of the CMV petitions to kill the petition -- as happened in 2018.
At least for now, it appears, Wright and his two assistants won’t be getting paid by Entrata to keep the KMV effort alive, as SB54 remains in place and there is no active Count My Vote effort to take it before voters for their approval.
And with significant change in the membership of the state Republican Party’s Central Committee (even though Bateman has won a spot on the party’s 160-member controlling group), there appears no appetite to continue the SB54 fight within in the party at this time, either.