‘The Rundown’: The ‘real’ leadership race in the Utah GOP

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The “real” leadership election in the Utah GOP

While the main event at next week’s GOP convention is the race for party chair, there’s some intrigue boiling under the surface as members of the party’s State Central Committee are up for election, too.

In practical terms, the SCC is the real power behind the party. They’re the governing body for the state party and determine the direction of the Utah GOP. All of the county party leaders are members. The rest of the 180+ seats are filled through elections at the county and state level.

The Utah GOP is different from many other state Republican Parties across the country, as it has an active role in determining nominees thanks to the caucus/convention path. Others provide support to candidates because they have direct primary elections. So, a seat on the SCC carries a lot of responsibility...and a lot of power.

You’ll remember the Utah GOP nearly went bankrupt a few years ago under former chair James Evans. That debt was fueled primarily by the endless legal fight against the signature path for candidates established under SB54. Despite losing time and time again in the courts, the state party kept pushing the legal fight and racking up legal bills. That was money that could have been used to support candidates rather than tilting at legal windmills.

In 2019, there was an effort pushed by some of the more moderate parts of the party to oust many of the members of the SCC responsible for those legal bills. That campaign saw some success as several of the more hard-line members were ousted.

The same sort of effort is underway again this year, but it’s coming from both sides. There are slates of central committee candidates that have been proposed by moderates and conservatives, both at the county and state level.

Some of those helping the moderate slates of candidates tell me their goal is to keep the party apparatus focused on winning elections instead of getting sidetracked by internal squabbles. They’re hoping to avoid the rancor and infighting that marked previous iterations of the SCC makeup. This year, that realignment worked well as Republicans saw electoral success across the state and even re-captured a congressional seat they had lost in 2018.

What you need to know for Friday morning

  • Gov. Spencer Cox says the number of new coronavirus cases in the state has hit a plateau after a decline. Utah is not seeing the surge in new cases that many other states are experiencing [Tribune].

  • Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart were asked during a town hall meeting to rate President Joe Biden. After they stopped laughing, Lee said Biden’s left-leaning agenda “made Barack Obama look like Ted Cruz” [Tribune].

  • Lake Powell’s water levels are expected to hit historic low levels this year as the region endures a drought [Tribune].

  • The U. S. House approved a bill giving statehood to Washington, D.C. on a straight party-line vote. The proposal faces an uphill fight in the Senate [Politico].

  • The Senate overwhelmingly passed an anti-hate crimes bill in response to the rising number of attacks on Asian Americans. Missouri Republican Josh Hawley was the only “no” vote [Politico].

  • President Biden will propose hiking capital gains taxes on wealthy individuals to 39.6% to pay for a number of social programs [Bloomberg].

  • Senate Republicans unveiled their own infrastructure plan that costs $568 billion, far less than what President Joe Biden is proposing [AP].

  • The Capitol Police deny an accusation made by a Democratic congresswoman that they were focused only on finding anti-Trump protesters during the January 6 attack on the Capitol [Politico].

  • The labor market is getting hotter as weekly jobless claims dropped for the second straight week [CNBC].

  • India’s COVID-19 outbreak set a record for new cases for the second straight day with 332,730 [AP].

  • Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says U.S. embassies around the world can fly the Pride flag [Foreign Policy].

  • NASA’s Perseverance rover created oxygen on Mars, converting some of the planet’s carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. The experiment made enough oxygen to keep an astronaut alive for about 10 minutes [CNN].

— Tribune reporter Karina Andrew contributed to this story.

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