Republican angst over Sen. Mitt Romney’s perceived apostasy toward the GOP, particularly against former President Donald Trump, lives on in southeastern Utah. On Thursday, delegates to the Emery County Republican Party Convention will debate and vote on a resolution to censure Romney.
The censure resolution on Thursday evening’s agenda levels several harsh criticisms of Romney. It accuses him of giving “aid and comfort to the Democratic party” for voting to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstructing Congress as part of a scheme to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. The resolution says the impeachment of Trump relied on “false charges.”
The Constitution cites “giving aid and comfort” to enemies of the United States as a form of treason.
The proposal also says Romney “lent his support to a false liberal narrative” when he voted to convict Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial. Trump was impeached by the House for incitement of insurrection after a mob of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jesse Sloan, one of three sponsors of the censure resolution, says his disagreements with Romney are not personal. He says it is important for Republicans to work toward the same goals, something he believes Romney is not doing.
“I’d like to see him on our team again. I’d like to see him working for Republicans. The sentiment down here is he helped the other party defeat Trump in 2020,” Sloan said.
Regarding the 2020 presidential election, the censure motion does not pull any punches.
“Senator Romney helped the Democrat Party elect an incompetent, radical democrat who has done irreparable damage to the United States,” the resolution reads.
Romney is also attacked for participating in a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C., following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. The resolution calls BLM “an openly communist anti-American and anti-Republican organization.”
Romney’s position, more specifically his lack of one, in the 2022 U.S. Senate race between Republican Mike Lee and independent Evan McMullin is another sore spot for Sloan and his co-sponsors.
In the contest’s final days, polls suggested the gap between Lee and McMullin was narrowing. Lee did nothing to dispel that notion when he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program and begged Romney for his endorsement against McMullin.
“Please get on board. Help me win reelection,” Lee pleaded.
Romney withheld his endorsement in the race because he considered both men friends. Romney was the only Republican Senator not to endorse Lee. Sloan believes Romney’s neutrality cost Lee votes.
The resolution also attacks Romney for joining “the radical democrats and voted for an unconstitutional gun control bill that violates the second, fifth and fourteenth amendments,” the resolution says.
Thursday evening’s debate at the Emery County Rec Center in Castle Dale could be intense. In an email sent to delegates, Emery County GOP Chair Tom Hansen hoped to manage expectations about what the censure motion was for.
“It is NOT a lynching (hanging without trial), and it is NOT censorship (suppression of speech, especially print or images),” Hansen wrote. “It holds no authority to remove from office. It is a formal expression of severe disapproval. You, the delegates, have the opportunity to represent your communities and have your voices heard.”
This is not the first time differences between Romney and Utah Republicans have spilled into the open.
Some GOP state legislators were outraged following his vote to convict Trump during his first impeachment in 2020, prompting Rep. Phil Lyman to file a bill seeking a censure. Instead, legislative leaders quietly sent a citation letter to Trump while Lyman’s proposal was scuttled.
In 2021, some members of the Utah Republican Party State Central Committee circulated a censure motion accusing Romney of being” an agent for the Establishment Deep State” and of harboring a “personal vendetta” against Trump. While that effort did not go anywhere, Republican delegates in Utah and Weber Counties voted to censure Romney a few weeks later.
Republican delegates rained boos on Romney as he spoke at the 2021 Utah GOP Convention but narrowly voted down a proposed censure motion later that day.
The proposed Emery County censure encourages Republicans in Utah to “support conservative candidates opposed to” Romney, who has not yet announced whether he’ll run for a second term in 2024.
“I’m confident that I would win if I decide to run. I’ll have the resources, and I believe the people of Utah would be with me,” Romney said during an impromptu press conference at the Utah State Capitol in February.
Sloan said he might be open to supporting Romney if he runs again in 2024, but a lot would have to change. He is not confident that’s going to happen.
“I don’t see him getting the message that we think he’s hurting the Republican Party,” Sloan said.
Romney’s office declined to comment on the proposed censure.