Rolly: Utah Republican delegates are best at picking nominees? They sure missed on embattled Commissioner Greg Graves

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Paul Rolly.

The recent sexual harassment and retaliation allegations against Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves should put to rest any notion that convention delegates are better equipped to vet and pick their party nominees than the electorate at large.

Graves’ stormy three-year stint as a commissioner — pitting him against his two Republican colleagues on the commission in sometimes nasty, petty battles, even prompting him to register, albeit briefly, as a Democrat in protest —­ is another testament to the folly of that delegates-know-better idea.

Graves was relatively unknown in political circles when he defeated County Commission Chairman Gary Anderson at the Utah County Convention in 2014.

The delegates, elected in their neighborhood caucus meetings, gave Graves more than 60 percent vote to assure him the nomination right there and avoid a primary.

That meant Graves was a shoo-in for the commission seat because no Democrat or third-party candidate had even filed.

Shorty after the convention and Graves’ assurance of victory, news surfaced that he had filed for multiple bankruptcies and had a theft conviction.

The delegates, who are supposed to be so much better than your average run-of-the-mill Republican at determining the best candidates, had missed that. By the time of these revelations, it was too late.

Bill Freeze, president of the Utah County Association of Realtors, mounted a write-in campaign with the support of some high-profile Republicans, but it didn’t go far. County party leaders threatened to excommunicate those Republicans from the GOP if they continued in their blasphemy of backing someone other than the delegates’ nominee.

The GOP has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Legislature passed SB54, which created multiple paths to the primary ballot: the traditional caucus-convention system, signature gathering, or both.

Party purists have sued to end that hybrid system, arguing the GOP has the sole right to decide how to choose its nominees. The fight is still raging, with the loyalists insisting, among other things, that the delegates know the candidates’ positives and negatives.

Graves’ case is evidence otherwise.

The caste system • When President Donald Trump conducted his signing ceremony at the Utah Capitol last week to dismantle the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, he did so before a smiling audience of carefully screened sycophants.

Protesters were confined to the cold outdoors.

But there were some interesting seating arrangements in the Rotunda.

The family of Gov. Gary Herbert, used to top billing at such events, was relegated to the second row.

On the first row were the family members and business partner of House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who received five tickets for those coveted spots.

Hughes and Herbert, of course, were at the front with Trump, participating in the signing rite.

But it was unusual to see first lady Jeanette Herbert staring at the back of Krista Hughes’ head.

When the ceremony ended, a Trump aide motioned for Hughes to join the president and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee in the presidential limo on the ride to the airport.

Herbert, the state’s chief executive, was left behind, symbolically holding the proverbial bridesmaid bouquet.

Gee, do you think that seating arrangement was in any way related to the fact that Hughes was an early and passionate Trump supporter during the Republican primaries and Herbert originally backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz?

Surely, this president wouldn’t be so petty.

Just ask Mitt Romney.

Only in Utah • Even with all the anticipation, preparation and excitement surrounding Trump’s visit, one major oversight did occur — one that could be described as a made-in-Utah glitch.

The Secret Service agents, coming in from the cold while providing protection for the commander in chief, were expecting a small accommodation they usually get elsewhere.

But, alas, there was no coffee at the Capitol. And, according to a Facebook post by State Auditor John Dougall, the staff had no idea where to get some or how to make it.

Finally, a critical decision was made: A staffer was sent, on the double, to the nearest Starbucks.