Paul Rolly: Count My Vote still causing fights in Utah’s GOP
Published: April 14, 2014 10:32AM
Updated: April 14, 2014 07:43PM
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Paul Rolly

Forces that benefit when political candidates are chosen by the few are still working behind the scenes to unhinge the compromise bill passed this year by the Legislature that allows for alternative paths to a party nomination.

I wrote recently about one legislator’s temporary roadblock to SB54, the measure that paves the way for the traditional caucus/convention path and the petition/primary path.

He wanted the law’s implementation delayed until 2018 instead of 2016, when Sen. Mike Lee is up for re-election.

It didn’t work. The start date was not changed and the bill passed.

Now, the Utah coordinator for the conservative FreedomWorks political-action committee is distributing a resolution for county Republican parties in the state to consider that takes direct aim at SB54.

And wouldn’t you know it? FreedomWorks is a big supporter of Lee and other tea party darlings. The PAC also claimed credit for the 2010 convention defeat of three-term Republican incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett, whom Lee replaced, which likely would not have occurred if SB54 would have been in effect.

The resolution opines that a state does not have the constitutional right to tell a political party how to choose its candidates and warns that legislation dictating what system will be used “diminishes our party’s right of association.”

Therefore, says the resolution, “the [fill in the blank] County Republican Party strongly affirms our constitutional right to determine how our party selects our nominees” and “supports our leadership in defending our party’s legal rights regarding this issue.”

The resolution’s distributor: Heather Williamson, the Utah coordinator for FreedomWorks, whose effectiveness is enhanced by the current caucus/convention system.

The battle between tea-party types who helped elect Lee and Republicans who advocate changing the nominating system became clear at a recent Davis County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting.

Davis County GOP Chairman Phill Wright read the resolution to the group and said he endorsed it.

When the party’s secretary, Kathleen Anderson, suggested that delegates chosen under the present system are more extreme than the average Republican, Wight passionately disagreed and said he was offended by the comment.

She later filed an ethics complaint against Wright for his public reaction to her and for allegedly refusing to give her a full delegate list.

Wright also was called out in an email chain for suggesting that Republican precinct chairs who signed the Count My Vote petition should be asked to remove their names from the petition or resign from their party posts.

Wright maintains he simply brought up the question for discussion and was not advocating that precinct chairs be purged.

The whole kerfuffle shows how divisive County My Vote and SB54 have become in the Grand Old Party.

prolly@sltrib.com