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They had rolled out endorsements from former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and long-time U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, who also gave the effort $50,000 from his political action committee, records show.
This week, the group said it had gathered 100,000 of the roughly 102,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot, although it did not say if it had gathered the signatures in 26 of the 29 Senate districts, as is required to put the measure on the ballot.
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans said he was notified when negotiations were underway, but the party wasn’t part of the talks — in part because being party to the discussions could impede a future legal challenge to SB54.
"As a political party, we always reserve the right to protect our freedom of association, but we want to see what the final agreement looks like," Evans said. "We certainly are appreciative of the Legislature trying to find a way to preserve the caucus and convention system, as well as address the concerns of increased participation. That has always been the goal of the party."
Another potential wildcard in the entire process: Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, still has a proposed amendment to Utah’s Constitution that would state that a party’s right to choose its candidates however it wants cannot be infringed. The bill was approved by a committee this week and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Asked Friday if he would stand down if a deal was struck with Count My Vote, Jenkins grinned and said, "We’ll have to see."
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