Three Weber County Republican candidates shunned by their own party for gathering signatures to get on the ballot found vindication Tuesday in the primary election.
Each member of the trio won his respective GOP race against an opponent who had been endorsed and financially backed by the county party despite trailing in the April party convention balloting.
“It’s a nice feeling — in spite of all efforts,” Steve Waldrip, an Eden developer and consultant said Wednesday after winning the Republican nomination for an open state House seat by a convincing 59-41 percent victory over Jason Kyle.
Waldrip also had been the clear favorite of Republican delegates in the Weber County party convention in April, walking out with 71 percent support. But weeks later he learned that party leaders instead endorsed Kyle and gave him a $500 donation for the sole reason he had forgone collecting signatures to seek the nomination exclusively through the convention.
Waldrip’s situation wasn’t unique.
State Rep. Gage Froerer, who is leaving the Legislature to run for Weber County Commission, came out of the GOP convention with 52 percent of the delegate vote. But the party instead endorsed James Couts, a convention-only candidate.
Froerer won his primary Tuesday to clinch the nomination over Couts and incumbent Commissioner James Ebert.
And sheriff candidate Ryan Arbon also prevailed in his primary over two intraparty challengers, including the party-endorsed Kevin Burns.
Weber County Republican Chairwoman Lynda Pipkin did not return a request for comment for this story. But, in a June 5 email to GOP voters, she wrote: “The purpose was to attract more candidates to use the party’s preferred vetting system known as the caucus/convention system. … That is why our elected delegates use our party platform as the litmus test when they are vetting our convention candidates.”
This hard-line approach to signature gathering had drawn criticism from Gov. Gary Herbert and other elected officials, including state Sen. Todd Weiler, who compared it to the topsy-turvy despotism of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
Waldrip expects now that the party will unite behind him as the candidate in the general election against Democrat Deana Froerer, “but, boy, it’s been a bit of tough sledding to get to this point.”
He said party leaders will need to do some fence mending with frustrated delegates.
“They’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that they slapped the delegates in the face and they’ll either have to win them back over or they won’t be continuing in that position any longer.”