These high-profile Republicans will see challengers at this weekend’s GOP nominating conventions

Salt Lake and Davis counties will host Republican nominating conventions on Saturday.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Clockwise from top left: state school board member Natalie Cline; Sen. Wayne Harper, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore; and Rep. Trevor Lee all face challengers to the Republican nomination at county conventions on Saturday, April 13.

Utah Republicans get their first chance to weigh in on controversial State School Board member Natalie Cline this weekend. At Saturday’s Salt Lake County Republican Nominating Convention, GOP delegates will decide whether to send Cline, who unleashed a social media firestorm against a high school student, to the primary ballot or kick her to the curb.

Salt Lake and Davis County Republicans, representing some of Utah’s most populous neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front, will square off on Saturday during each county’s respective GOP nominating conventions.

In February, Cline falsely insinuated on social media that a female high school athlete was transgender, which led to attacks against the student from Cline’s followers. Because of the threats, the student was given police protection. Cline later apologized. The Republican-controlled Utah Legislature ignored a request from the girl’s parents to impeach Cline, instead calling for her resignation and ultimately passing a toothless resolution censuring her.

Cline is running for reelection this year but is being challenged for the GOP nomination by Amanda Bollinger. To move to the June primary ballot, Cline needs to get at least 40% support from Salt Lake County GOP delegates. Bollinger has already qualified for the primary election by gathering signatures but can win the party nomination outright on Saturday if she can capture 60% of delegate support.

According to pre-convention campaign disclosures, Bollinger has raised nearly three times as much campaign cash as Cline. Bollinger has also reeled in big donations from Gov. Spencer Cox ($5,000), Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson ($1,000), Salt Lake County Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton ($500), and Sen. Mike McKell ($500). House Speaker Mike Schultz has not donated to Bollinger’s campaign despite calling for Cline’s resignation.

Legislative races

Several Republican incumbent lawmakers will also face strong intra-party challenges this year, but most gathered enough signatures to guarantee a spot on the primary ballot. Because of that, the delegates on Saturday cannot eliminate them from the race, removing much of the drama from those nominating contests.

Sen. Wayne Harper is the longest-serving member of the Legislature, having first been elected to the Utah House in 1996 before moving to the Senate in 2012. If GOP State School Board member Christina Bogguss hopes to end Harper’s 28-year tenure on Capitol Hill, she must do it in the June primary since Harper, who gathered signatures, cannot be eliminated on Saturday.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore’s reelection bid is also immune from a premature end on Saturday at the hands of longtime GOP activist Janalee Tobias, as Filmore’s campaign submitted the required 2,000 signatures to advance to the primary. Tobias needs at least 40% of the delegate vote on Saturday to force Fillmore into a primary battle.

In 2022, political unknown Trevor Lee stunned former Rep. Steve Handy at the Davis County Republican Nominating Convention, knocking the longtime moderate Republican out of the Legislature. This time, Lee is facing a challenge for the party nomination from former Davis County GOP Chair Daniela Harding, who is already assured of a spot in the primary because of signatures.

Lee has to be considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents this year. He only needed 53 delegate votes to defeat Handy in the convention and got the lowest vote percentage (48.5%) of any winning legislative candidate in the 2022 general election. Lee’s campaign got a bit of a pre-convention boost last week when he scored a rare endorsement from Sen. Mike Lee.

County races

A handful of county-level races could provide some intrigue on Saturday.

Republicans Erin Rider and Yianni (John) Ioannou hope to be the GOP standard bearer against Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, a Democrat, in this year’s mayoral contest. Neither Republican collected signatures, so delegates will decide their fate. If either gets 60% on Saturday, they’ll avoid a primary.

State Sen. Daniel Thatcher is pursuing the GOP nomination to replace Dave Alvord on the Salt Lake County Council. Thatcher collected signatures, meaning his opponent, Carlos Moreno, will need at least 40% support from delegates on Saturday to force a primary.

An open seat on the Davis County Commission has drawn a slew of Republicans hoping to win the party’s nomination. Nine candidates will lobby delegates for support on Saturday. Davis County GOP rules require using ranked-choice voting for elections with three or more candidates.

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