Natalie Cline tells GOP leader she won’t resign, will continue to run for reelection to Utah school board

Before the Legislature voted to censure — and not impeach — Cline, the embattled school board member told House Speaker Mike Schultz she would not step down from office.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Natalie Cline, left, in 2023. Ahead of being censured by the Legislature, Cline told GOP leaders she wouldn't resign and will continue to run for reelection.

House Speaker Mike Schultz and other Republican leaders have repeatedly called for Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline’s resignation after she suggested a female student-athlete was transgender. The Utah school board, along with also asking for her resignation, removed her from committees and, on Thursday, the Legislature voted in a mostly symbolic effort to censure Cline.

But, Cline has signaled to Republican leaders she has no intention of leaving the state’s school board and will continue to run for reelection this year, according to emails shared with The Salt Lake Tribune.

“I sent Speaker Schultz a message on Monday telling him I have no plans to resign and will run for reelection,” Cline said in a Thursday email sent to the Utah Republican Party’s State Central Committee and obtained by The Tribune.

“I also asked him for a private meeting to discuss this situation and what, if any, action the House plans to take. He acknowledged receipt but has not responded to my multiple requests to meet privately to talk about this,” Cline wrote.

Schultz acknowledged on Thursday morning that he and other House leaders met with Cline last Friday, but he did not mention that Cline had reached out to him again this week or that she was refusing to resign.

“Board member Cline met with House Majority Leadership last Friday, which Speaker Schultz attended. She was then invited to attend Tuesday’s House Majority Caucus meeting but declined and asked for a separate meeting with the speaker. Speaker Schultz declined to meet with Cline privately,” a spokesperson for Schultz said in a text message to The Tribune.

Cline has not responded to emails seeking comment.

The defiant tone in Cline’s email was punctuated with an attack against her critics, which suggested they opposed her work to protect children while ignoring her role in the incident that precipitated the current controversy.

“It is not lost on me that most of the people who are trying to ruin my life and work seem perfectly fine with children having access to pornography in schools, boys in girls’ sports, boys in girls’ locker rooms, children being taught they can change their gender, etc,” Cline wrote in her email. “These are issues that I have been effectively fighting against on the Utah State School Board.”

The email also included a recording and transcript of a telephone call she had with Utah Republican Party Executive Director Brantley Eason on Tuesday.

In the call, Cline asked if the GOP was planning on taking a position regarding efforts to discipline her. Eason informed her that Gov. Spencer Cox and the GOP-controlled House and Senate were “not inclined” to support her remaining in office and that the Senate was “looking at impeachment.”

“So all of them want to impeach? Is that what you’re saying?” Cline said, according to the transcript.

“That’s what I’m getting from everyone, yeah,” Eason replied.

He then asked Cline what she planned to do:

Cline: “I am moving forward.”

Eason: “Moving forward in the position as well as a candidate?”

Cline: “Yes.”

As a result of the phone call, Cline alleged that Republican Party officials, Gov. Spencer Cox and legislative leaders were aligned against her to force her to step down.

(Laura Seitz | Pool) Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to reporters at the PBS Utah Governor's monthly news conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

“From my discussion with Mr. Eason, it sounds like Party leadership, the Governor, Speaker Schultz, and President Adams are having private, backroom conversations about me. Is there a reason why the same people are unwilling to meet with me directly to discuss this matter?” Cline’s email said.

Utah Republican Party officials told The Tribune that the telephone conversation between Cline and Eason was just one of several in recent days. They denied there had been any discussions between the Republican Party and elected officials about the controversy.

During his monthly televised news conference on Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox reiterated that he and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson have called for Cline to step down. Beginning impeachment proceedings against Cline in the Utah House, Cox added, may not be needed.

“What happened yesterday has effectively removed her from any actions with the board,” Cox told reporters of the school board’s decision to remove Cline from committees. “Whether or not she’s impeached is probably immaterial at this point because that is, in effect, what happened.“

Hours after Cox’s news conference, lawmakers voted to censure — and not impeach — Cline. The resolution to censure the elected school board member does not remove Cline from office or prevent her from running for reelection. The governor quickly signed the resolution Thursday night.

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