Is the sovereign citizen movement finding a home inside the Utah GOP?

The Davis County Republican Party has elected three members who recently signed a legal document using sovereign citizen symbols to Utah GOP leadership.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delegates visit with candidates at the Davis County Republican nominating convention at Farmington High School, on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

In February, Teena Horlacher, former chairman of the Davis County GOP and current leader of the Davis County Conservatives group, filed a document with the Davis County Recorder in which she placed a $5 million lien on her own home in Syracuse.

In that document, she uses syntax, phrases and symbols common to the sovereign citizen movement.

Last week, the county party elected her to a leadership position with the Utah Republican Party on the State Central Committee. The 186-member body is responsible for charting the political course for Republicans in Utah.

Last summer, the SCC approved a resolution calling for a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Lawmakers responded and passed legislation to do just that earlier this year.

According to the FBI, sovereign citizens are “anti-government extremists.” Individuals associated with the movement believe nearly all government bodies in the U.S. are illegitimate, and they seek to “‘restore’ an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Two other county members who signed the document as witnesses, Olivia Horlacher Williams and Jennifer Garner, were elected by Republican delegates on Saturday to serve on the governing body for the state party. Williams, who is Teena Horlacher’s daughter, is the secretary for the Utah GOP and vying for a second term at the party’s state convention this Saturday.

Horlacher says she is not a sovereign citizen or state national, another term used by sovereign citizens to refer to themselves.

“I am in NO way associated, affiliated, or otherwise with any ‘Sovereign Citizen’ movement or anything of the like. I have no interest in joining or participating in such a movement. My concerns are, and will continue to be for the benefit of the people living in this county,” Horlacher said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune.

“There is only one Sovereign and that is God.

“A sovereign citizen would mean I owe allegiance to the state. It is a made up status, an oxymoron. It is not real,” she added.

Horlacher refused to answer additional questions about her filing. Williams and Garner did not respond to questions. According to court documents, a separate lien for unpaid legal fees was filed on the property in 2021.

Despite those denials, several things in the document point to Horlacher employing sovereign citizen tactics.

For example, Horlacher writes her name as “:Teena-Porter: Horlacher©.” The colons before and after her name are an example of what is known as “syntax” grammar, which was developed by David Wynn Miller, a sovereign citizen who claimed using hyphens and colons in their name allows citizens to avoid paying taxes, according to the ADL.

The copyright symbol behind her name and signature is known as a “Common Law Copyright Notice,” commonly used by sovereign citizens, according to a paper published by the University of North Carolina.

Sovereign citizens can also use several other grammatical items found in Horlacher’s document, such as Horlacher identifying herself as a “North American/State Citizen, non-corporate living woman” and putting the city name of Syracuse in brackets.

There’s often stiff competition among Republicans for spots on the 186-member Utah GOP State Central Committee, which is the governing body for the party. Outgoing state party chairman Carson Jorgensen did not respond to questions about the possibility that sovereign citizens, or at least those sympathetic to the movement, have a prominent place in the party’s leadership.

This is not the first instance of the sovereign citizen movement intersecting with the Davis County Republican Party. Alena Ericksen, who has adopted rhetoric common among sovereign citizens, was a candidate for an open seat in the Utah House of Representatives in 2022. She earned enough support from delegates to qualify for the primary election but was defeated by the eventual winner, Rep. Paul Cutler.

The sovereign citizen movement was thrust into the spotlight in March after the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Chase Allan during a traffic stop in Farmington. Security footage from the incident showed Allan’s car displayed a known sovereign citizen symbol.

Horlacher and Williams, who also goes by the name Olivia Dawn, were on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol when a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters attacked Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to prevent the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election win. There’s no evidence that either entered the Capitol that day and the FBI interviewed Williams in connection with the riot, KUTV reported.

Horlacher was also a featured speaker at a QAnon-fueled conspiracy conference in Salt Lake City in October 2021.

Horlacher’s Davis County Conservatives came under fire this week for an allegedly racist comment posted on the group’s Facebook page.