In now-softened Facebook post, Davis County GOP hit Mitt Romney for ‘illegally obtaining’ delegate list early to gain an edge

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mitt Romney talks to the media after he filed to run for the United States Senate, in the Lt. Governor's office at the State Capitol, Thursday, March 15, 2018.

The Davis County Republican Party blasted U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney in a Facebook post Thursday — which it later deleted, softened and reposted — griping initially that his campaign “illegally obtained” its lists of new state delegates to send emails.

It said he should have waited, as agreed by all candidates, for the party to provide the list to all campaigns at the same time.

Others lashed out at the party for that criticism, and praised Romney for a campaign that moved so quickly after new delegates were elected Tuesday at caucus meetings.

“The Davis County Republican Party has lost its mind,” tweeted Republican Salt Lake County Recorder Adam Gardiner. “I’m glad Romney has an organized campaign.”

“That @Romney4Utah campaign is just too competent,” sarcastically tweeted lobbyists Doug Foxley and Frank Pignanelli.

The county party initially posted on Facebook that it “discovered that the Mitt Romney campaign illegally obtained lists from our recently elected delegates, and subsequently sent emails to those delegates.”

That violated party rules, it said.

The party added that it previously announced it would “treat each candidate fairly by releasing delegate lists to all the candidates at the same time. All candidates pledge to follow our rules as part of their candidacy. Obtaining unauthorized delegate lists violates this pledge.”

County Party Chairwoman Teena Horlacher said she rewrote the post “because people were going crazy about the word ‘illegally.’” She added, “This is no way was an attack on Mitt Romney,” but just an explanation that his campaign violated rules.

“There’s no penalty I can impose,” other than to say publicly what happened, she said.

Horlacher said it was “extremely aggravating” that a person volunteered to enter data about delegates for the party under what she feels were false pretenses, and funneled the information to the Romney campaign — giving it a head start on others. “His campaign has all the advantages anyway.”

Romney campaign spokeswoman MJ Henshaw declined comment on the matter.

It wasn’t the first time the Davis County GOP has criticized the Romney campaign.

In a March 13 post still on the party’s Facebook page, a photo of a Romney campaign memo encouraging people to attend their neighborhood caucuses and run as a Romney delegate is accompanied by disapproving commentary.

“This goes against the spirit of the caucus where delegates are elected to vet all candidates giving all equal consideration according to the principles and values they believe in,” the party said. “This practice undermines and manipulates the purpose of the caucus. Delegates should be elected to represent their neighbors, not a specific candidate.”

Several Republicans countered the criticism by saying is standard operating procedure for candidates to urge people to attend caucus and run as delegates to support them.

Romney — the former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts governor — is facing 11 others for the Republican nomination in Utah’s U.S. Senate race. Most are not well known, and many are running for the first time. But among candidates is state Rep. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine.