On Tuesday, at least temporarily, Democrats had a seat on the County Commission in perhaps one of the most conservative counties in the nation.
By the end of the night, the commission had three Republicans again.
Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves, who first won election as a Republican in 2014, appeared to have a political change of heart and registered as a Democrat.
That seemed like a monumental shift. Republican county delegates chose Graves over incumbent Commissioner Gary Anderson at its nominating convention in 2014. Graves told The Salt Lake Tribune two months ago that he was a “conservative Republican.”
In what he now says was an attempt to prove a point, Graves says he changed sides.
“I changed my party affiliation. I did it,” Graves said, adding that he intended to keep the matter private. “It should have never been released.”
Before the end of the day, Graves changed his registration back and is a Republican again, he said.
It’s not uncommon for Graves and his Republican colleagues on the commission to disagree during policy debates, according to all three. Commissioner Nathan Ivie said Graves had made arguments during debates that didn’t appear to be conservative. Commissioner Bill Lee agreed that he and Graves were frequently at odds.
“There are times at which you pull together, and a lot of times you don’t pull together,” said Lee, commission chairman. “We’ve had plenty, plenty of times we’re pulling in the opposite direction.”
In Graves’ opinion, though, he was the true conservative and he decided to change his affiliation after a recent fierce debate.
“Out of protest, I went up and said, If that’s what a Republican is, I can’t be registered a Republican,” Graves said.
The private move became public when a conservative political blogger wrote about the change Tuesday. Richard Jaussi, an adviser to Salt Lake County Commissioner Steve DeBry, included a screenshot in a post that shows Graves’ then-Democratic affiliation.
Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson said he saw the screenshot and that it appeared to have come from a state voter database, but he declined to confirm Graves’ affiliation, citing privacy settings allowed under state law.
“If someone has hacked in or done something, that would be inappropriate,” Thompson said. “I did get someone to give me a copy, and it looked like it was out of the statewide database.”
On Tuesday evening, Utah County Republican Party Chairman Rob Craig wanted answers, so he talked to Graves, who told him that he’d rejoined the GOP.
“I’m satisfied with that answer,” Craig told The Tribune.
While they had their member on the commission, briefly, Democrats were quick to welcome Graves as one of their own, though the news caught the party by surprise.
“With this change in Commissioner Graves’ party affiliation, we hope he will be a voice of reason, compassion and change on the Utah County Commission,” party Vice Chairman Justin Anderson wrote in an emailed response to questions.
When told Democrats no longer had a member on the County Commission, Anderson said he had concerns about the conduct.
"We call upon Commissioner Graves to treat his office with the respect it demands," Anderson wrote. "We stand with Utah County residents as we raise our concerns about his personal and professional conduct."