After a tumultuous few months, the Salt Lake County Republican Party has shaken up its leadership, selecting new party members to serve as chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer.
Participating remotely due to the pandemic, 1,661 delegates voted for executive officers and state central committee members over two and a half hours, with polls closing at 1 p.m. Chris Null, who has volunteered in various party roles for the past eight years, was elected chair with 61.2% of the vote. Challenger Kathleen Anderson received 32.2%, followed by Andrew Langford with 7.2%.
Null replaces Chairman Scott Miller, who stepped down late last month after The Salt Lake Tribune published a story documenting complaints from more than half a dozen Republican women who said they had been bullied, degraded and pressured into campaigning on pet issues last year for Miller’s former communication director.
“We’re going to lead the party by empowering delegates and making sure the caucus convention system is as strong as it can be,” Null said. “We’re going to leave all the negativity behind.”
Joining Null in the party’s new executive leadership are Jared Cahoon as vice chair, who beat challenger Scott Schulze by 15.2 points; Carma Brown as secretary, with a 40-point lead over Andrew Nieto; and Japheth A. McGee as treasurer, who ran unopposed.
The full list of voting results are available on the Salt Lake County GOP website.
Ahead of the vote, acting Chair Scott Rosenbush noted the ups and downs the party has experienced in the past several months.
“We had fantastic candidates for various county offices last year,” Rosenbush said in a 19-minute previously recorded video shared as the convention opened at 10 a.m. “And when all the votes were counted, Republicans won a veto-proof majority on the County Council.”
However, Rosenbush acknowledged the toxic culture that permeated the party during the past election season, which caused several women to share their experiences of harassment. Chairman Miller initially dismissed the women’s complaints, then publicly attacked them for coming forward, before ultimately resigning.
“As most of you know, as acting chair, I issued a public apology to candidates, volunteers and others who feel they were mistreated during their interactions with our party,” Rosenbush said. “Because the Salt Lake County Republican Party believes that every individual, without exception, must be treated with utmost respect, the executive committee has created an ethics advisory committee that will work ... to create policies that will prevent this from happening in the future.”
Before taking Miller’s place last month as acting chair, Rosenbush served as vice chair. He did not seek reelection.
Outgoing party secretary Reed Taylor also acknowledged the troubles facing the county party.
“The party is struggling right now a little bit with unity,” Taylor said. “It really comes down to communication between all of us. We need to maintain being involved, maintain really just being there for one another. ... That’s really what we stand for, inclusion. Not all the partisan politics.”
Controversy continued up until the day before the convention. Just over 24 hours before polls opened, Robert Anderson, a former state GOP chair who is married to chair candidate Kathleen Anderson, issued an email accusing Null of using his volunteer position with the county party to boost his chances of winning.
Robert Anderson also said that because Null holds a position on the party’s executive committee, he was “culpable” for the bullying and threats several women candidates and volunteers faced last year.
Saturday morning, just before the convention began, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton issued an email defending Null against “dirty campaign tricks.” Newton was one of the women who experienced harassment and intimidation from Miller and his communication director.
“After bringing this to the SLCO GOP executive committee, Chris Null was the first person who called me and several others to make sure he could help get the issue resolved,” Newton wrote in the email. “He worked tirelessly to ensure there was accountability.”
Kathleen Anderson texted a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune wishing Null success in his new chairman role.
“Going into this race, I knew I was a long shot,” she said, adding that she was “disappointed” in Newton’s email sent earlier Saturday.
“I’ve often thought that Republican women are the reason Republican women struggle to win more races and to see more success in Utah,” she wrote.
Keeping true to his commitment to leave the party’s prior adversarial tone in the past, Null offered an olive branch to his opponent and other party members who fell short in their races.
“They’re good people who hold the same conservative principles we do,” Null said. “I hope they’ll be part of the solution.”
Editor’s note, April 10, 2:45 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from candidate Kathleen Anderson.