When the Utah County Republican delegates meet for their organizing convention Saturday, they will be faced with the dilemma of forgiving a personal indiscretion and electing as their vice chair a candidate who was arrested for a DUI last November. Or is that too big of a hurdle to clear?
Randy J. O’Hara is one of three candidates running for the party’s vice chair in Utah County. He readily admitted to me that he is the same Randy O’Hara who was pulled over and cited for driving under the influence by the Utah Highway Patrol in Salt Lake City on Nov. 25.
He has entered a plea of not guilty, and his case is pending in Salt Lake City Justice Court.
“I messed up,” he told me Friday. “As a Republican, I believe on taking personal responsibility and I realize the delegates have a right to know about this before they vote on Saturday. It sounds strange, but this [arrest] is the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me a wake-up call. I have stopped drinking completely since that happened, and I will deal with the consequences.”
O’Hara, who is the chairman of the Utah Young Republicans, said he was celebrating his birthday and had consumed a few beers. When he got in his car to drive home to Utah County, he realized he had drunk too much, so he walked back to a restaurant, ate some food and waited about an hour when he felt OK to drive.
Unfortunately, he had not waited long enough and was pulled over just before he got on to I-15 for a faulty tail light. The trooper asked if he had been drinking, he said yes and was asked to take a Breathalizer test.
O’Hara is a respected Republican Party worker bee in Utah County and he hopes his mistake can be forgiven by the delegates. Republican insiders in Utah County told me O’Hara is well-liked and they hope he can overcome this mistake. But, fresh from being stuck with the investigation of alleged improprieties by Republican Attorney General John Swallow, which they didn’t know about until after he was elected, they agree the delegates need to know about the DUI before they vote.
O’Hara says he is a transplant to Utah and is not a member of the predominant faith. But he understands the taboo associated with drinking among the majority of the Republicans in Utah County. He just hopes repentance and atonement is enough for a second chance.
Perry Mason moment? • I wrote in Friday’s column about Murray Mayor Dan Snarr’s insistence that he is innocent of a traffic ticket issued to him in Salt Lake City and is willing to spend hundreds of dollars to take his case to trial instead of accepting a reduced fine.
His argument is that Salt Lake City is too quick to issue citations in order to raise more revenue through traffic and parking ticket fines and he plans to subpoena several witnesses, including Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, to make his case.
But he’s going to have another witness show up on his behalf that he hadn’t counted on.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has told Snarr that he wants to be there as a character witness for Snarr and testify at the Justice Court trial for the defense.
Snarr was pulled over for speeding in a school zone on State Street but has argued the flashing “school zone” light in the median was not working and he couldn’t see the one on the far right hand side of the street.
Besides Becker, the two crossing guards on duty that day have told Snarr they voluntarily want to testify on his behalf, so he doesn’t have to spend the money to subpoena them. They told him they had complained for a week about the broken light and agree the situation was unfair to drivers.