For Salt Lake County Republicans, warnings of voter fraud came from inside the party on Saturday. The vote to nominate a GOP candidate for Salt Lake County Clerk was marred when a pair of delegates were caught attempting to vote more than once, with one extra vote making it into a ballot box at Saturday’s county nominating convention.
The extra vote did not impact the outcome, as Goud Maragani easily won the nod from delegates over Nancy Lord. After the two cheaters were caught, the remaining delegates voted to expel them from their positions within the party. Republican officials said they planned to press charges, but it’s unclear what laws may have been broken since Saturday’s vote was conducted as part of a private organization and not a governmental entity.
Saturday’s attempted ballot box stuffing at the Republican convention was more election fraud than has been proven in Utah’s entire 2020 election.
The irony of the situation was undeniable, given how tightly the Salt Lake County GOP has embraced former President Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election. It was at the center of Maragani’s successful pitch to delegates and other candidates spoke on the issue when it was their turn to address the convention. Party chair Chris Null broached the topic, teasing a forthcoming report from the party.
“We put together an election integrity committee, and they put together a report that we’ll be releasing very soon. There are some significant problems with our current mail-in voting system,” Null said.
Even Rep. Burgess Owens got in on the action, playing footsie with the “stop the steal” crowd, and going as far as comparing the 2020 election to historic attacks on the country.
“After events like The Alamo, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and 2020 is when people start to wake up. Once we see we’re at war, we wake up,” Owens said.
Another source of irritation for delegates was the specter of Democrats changing their party registration to impact the Republican vote.
A man named Randy claimed to be doing just that at Saturday’s nominating convention. He refused to give his last name to The Salt Lake Tribune for fear his subterfuge would draw retaliation from Republicans but said he was elected as a county and state delegate shortly after switching parties.
“Democrats aren’t getting anything done,” he said. “Since becoming a delegate, I’ve had so many honest conversations with my elected officials, which I’ve really appreciated.”
Randy added that he was alarmed by Republicans’ focus on culture war issues like book banning and teaching about race in schools, and hoped to add a moderating voice to the discussion.
“That’s a bunch of crap,” said another Republican who overheard Randy’s conversation with The Tribune. “If you’re a Democrat, go talk about those things with your own party.”
He walked away without giving his name.
The anti-incumbent fervor that gripped Davis County Republicans at their convention last month was almost nonexistent in Salt Lake County on Saturday, but not entirely. Rep. Jeff Stenquist of Draper lost handily to Carolyn Phippen. He had already secured a spot in June’s primary election by gathering signatures.
Riverton’s Rep. Candace Pierucci handily beat back a challenge from Tracy Laws, while Reps. Cheryl Acton of West Jordan and Rep. Judy Weeks Rohner of West Valley City also notched wins.
In Utah County, four votes saved Brandon Beckham from elimination as he forced a primary with incumbent Keith Grover. Beckham’s campaign was rocked after he was charged with a felony count of forcible sexual abuse just days after filing to run.
Incumbent Utah County Attorney David Leavitt was crushed by delegates on Saturday. He was eliminated in the first round of voting after winning just 10% support from delegates. He was saved by the signature path.
Salt Lake County Democrats nearly sent two longtime incumbents packing their convention Saturday.
Sen. Gene Davis of Salt Lake City was handily defeated by Nate Blouin but secured enough signatures to ensure a primary election. Sen. Derek Kitchen, who also qualified for the primary through signatures, lost the delegate vote to Jennifer Plumb. Without signatures, he would have been eliminated.
Salt Lake City’s Rep. Stephanie Pitcher gave up her seat in the House to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City. Pitcher also gathered the required signatures to make the primary, otherwise, she would have been eliminated by Deondra Nielsen.