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Rolly: No Utah Republican Party on the ballot? Here’s how it could happen and how the GOP itself would be to blame.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

Imagine, if you can, the Utah GOP, the state’s predominant political party, vanishing from the ballot.

Impossible, you say, in deep-red Utah.

Well, if some outliers in the state GOP’s Central Committee succeed in their plans, it could happen. Utah’s big political elephant could collapse.

Here’s how:

These zealots have called a rogue meeting for Saturday. They did essentially the same thing in December by getting at least 25 percent of 180-plus Central Committee members to approve a special gathering. There, against the wishes of the party chairman, they passed resolutions to accept more than $400,000 from a donor to continue the party’s lawsuit against SB54, the 2014 legislative compromise with the Count My Vote coalition allowing multiple paths to the primary election ballot — the convention route, signature gathering, or both.

For this Saturday’s meeting, the proposals go much further, say longtime Republican activists, including some legislators. If they pass, these sources say, they could kill the GOP as we know it.

One recommendation would have those registering as Republicans submit to a questionnaire to determine if they agree with the party’s constitution, bylaws and platform. The questionnaires would be reviewed by a select panel to determine if they qualify as Republicans.

One GOP legislator likened that idea to the Russian Politburo or Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution.

A more troubling resolution would require that candidates commit to the party’s constitution, bylaws and platform, including the fiat that candidates seek the GOP nomination through the traditional caucus-convention system.

It also would demand that they agree “not to attempt to access the primary ballot through any methods or processes not explicitly outlined in and sanctioned by the Utah Republican Party.”

In short, no signature gathering.

That edict would violate state law, which decrees that parties must allow all legal paths to the ballot, including signature gathering.

If a party does not comply, it loses its qualifying status, and its candidates could not appear on the ballot with that party’s label.

In this case, there would be no Utah Republican Party or GOP-designated candidates on the general election ballot.

Party rules say the chairman must approve such changes, but that sets up a fight between these radicals and state GOP boss Rob Anderson, whom they are trying to force out.

Because of these extremists, some activists are talking about forming a new “Republican Party” with a different name.

Hatfields and McCoys • Dave Bateman, the CEO of Entrada, has committed more than $400,000 to the GOP to pay off legal fees and keep appeals going in the anti-SB54 lawsuit. He has set up a GoFundMe account, called Protect the Utah GOP, to raise more money for the cause.

After three months, the account has received about $6,000 toward its goal of $100,000.

So Jeremy Roberts, a Republican activist who leans toward the Count My Vote side, decided to help a bit, in a snarky way, by making four donations of $5 each to the account.

“Hey, while I appreciate the donation, we prefer not to accept it,” Bateman wrote in an email to Roberts. “Will you please let me know where and to whom I can send a check to reimburse you? Thanks.”

And don’t expect a Christmas card.

Them and us • House Speaker Greg Hughes was incensed this week that television executives were preventing employees from publicly supporting a bill to end noncompete agreements and ordering their newsrooms not to cover the measure, which would make it easier for TV journalists to leave their jobs for a competitor.

The Draper Republican called it a freedom-of-speech issue, but his angst over censorship seems to be selective.

I agree with Hughes and applaud his passion for the First Amendment. But he doesn’t seem to have a problem with two House bills designed to silence public entities and state employees from speaking out on legislation or issues.

There’s HB136, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, that would require local governments and universities to get permission from the Legislature to lobby on public lands issues. And there’s HB391, sponsored by Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, that would prevent public entities and employees from taking a public position on legislation.

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