Natalie Cline to lose Utah school board seat after Salt Lake GOP nominates Amanda Bollinger

Republican delegates in Salt Lake and Davis counties heard from 2024 election candidates and cast their ballots for GOP nominee’s in Utah’s June primary election.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline speaks during the Salt Lake County GOP convention in Murray on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Controversial Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline was shockingly ousted from her seat on Saturday after she was defeated at the Salt Lake County Republican Nominating Convention.

Amanda Bollinger received just over 63% of the delegate vote, giving her the party nomination in November and ending Cline’s bid for a second term in the District 9 seat.

In February, Cline prompted calls for her resignation from legislators and others after she incorrectly suggested a female athlete was transgender. Ironically, Cline’s ouster came at Cottonwood High School, where the athlete she targeted was a student.

Bollinger was ecstatic following news of her victory.

”It means that people care about kids,” Bollinger told reporters. ”And it means that people are willing to trust me to help put the trust for public education back into our system, so that means a lot.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Amanda Bollinger, candidate for Republican nomination for State School Board 9, speaks during the Salt Lake County GOP convention in Murray on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Cline refused to speak with the media on Saturday. During her convention speech, she hammered schools for indoctrinating children instead of teaching them.

“There are divisive ideologies being taught, turning our children into activists, encouraging them to agitate for social change within the school and outside of the school. And this is not okay,” Cline said.

While GOP Delegates ousted Cline on Saturday, they gave the party nomination in state school board District 7 to Kris Kimball, who defeated incumbent Molly Hart. Kimball, who holds many of the same political positions as Cline, said she “felt a nudge from God” to get into the race.

”We all know the damage that critical race theory can have on our children, teaching them to judge others by skin color. It is counter to our Christian values and what Dr. Martin Luther King preached,” she told delegates. “He spoke about the day when his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

There is no evidence that critical race theory, an academic theory that acknowledges racism, is being taught widely throughout Utah’s schools.

Kimball’s win did not knock Hart out of the race, as she had already qualified for the primary election through signature gathering.

‘Will you just let me do this?’

If Saturday is any indication, there’s some simmering dissatisfaction with Gov. Spencer Cox among a not-insignificant number of GOP delegates. The governor, who is seeking reelection, spoke at Salt Lake and Davis County conventions on Saturday.

Cox, who is facing an intra-party challenge from his political right, patted himself on the back for the massive tax cuts approved by the Legislature during the last three years, school vouchers and for sending resources to Texas to assist Gov. Greg Abbott in his dispute over immigration policy with the federal government. He also briefly mentioned some of the culture war issues that are important to many in the GOP base.

“We promised that we would protect life. We passed and signed into law the most restrictive abortion law and regulations in our state’s history because we care about life, especially the life of the unborn,” Cox told Salt Lake County delegates. “I don’t have time to go through everything, but we have stopped CRT, we stopped ESG, we’ve stopped DEI,” Cox said.

(Jeff Parrott | The Salt Lake Tribune) Campaign signs decorate a lawn outside of Clearfield High School where the Davis County Republican Party hosted their 2024 nominating convention on Saturday, April 12, 2024.

At the Davis County Republican Nominating Convention, opponent and state lawmaker Phil Lyman followed similar remarks by Cox with a jab, saying, “It’s the Legislature that does that, it’s not the governor.”

During Cox’s speech in Murray, a handful of delegates yelled out, “RINO,” short for “Republican In Name Only.” There was a near-equal mix of cheers and boos from delegates for Cox at the conclusion of his speech.

Convention attendees had a similar reaction when the incumbent appeared in Clearfield. There, Cox could not begin his speech until party Chair Yemi Arunsi stood to say, “Out of line.”

“I’ll let you boo as long as you want when I walk off,” Cox told a nearly-nearly packed auditorium. “Will you just let me do this? Will you give me that respect?”

Votes to stop using ERIC

Among the six county Republican parties that met Saturday, multiple considered a resolution urging the state to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multi-state database that allows election officials to manage their voter rolls.

ERIC has become a boogeyman in some conservative circles following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that his 2020 election loss was the result of voter fraud. Conspiracy theorists — and the resolution’s language — say ERIC is funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, another target of far-right conspiracy theories, and is run by leftist activists. Neither of those allegations are true.

After falsehoods about ERIC originated on the far-right, conspiracy-peddling website Gateway Pundit, at least nine states have withdrawn from the system.

The sponsor of the resolution in Davis County, Teena Horlacher, told delegates that the data cited in its text came from the conservative activist group Judicial Watch.

In 2020, its president advanced theories that former congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was going to claim the White House for herself, and urged attendees at a Council for National Policy gathering to stop mail-in ballots from being sent to voters.

Salt Lake County GOP Delegates did not have much appetite to debate the resolution. After quickly voting to cut off debate, they adopted the position on a voice vote.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Erin Rider, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Salt Lake County Mayor, speaks during the Salt Lake County GOP convention in Murray on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

In Davis County, county clerk Brian McKenzie stood up to urge fellow party members to reject the resolution, saying it is “one of the most important tools I have” to ensure the county’s voter rolls are accurate.

Davis County delegates passed the resolution 283-202.

Salt Lake County mayoral race

Erin Rider won the GOP nomination for Salt Lake County, handily defeating Yianni (John) Ioannou. Rider got just over 77% of the delegate vote after repeatedly attacking incumbent Democrat Jenny Wilson for her “out of control tax and spend ways.”

“Homelessness is running rampant in our county, taxes are out of control. Housing prices are the highest they have ever been,” Rider said. “It’s time to proactively plan for the future, not look to the White House for marching orders.”

GOP legislative races

Davis County Republican delegates again voted to send Rep. Trevor Lee, of Layton, to the Capitol to represent House District 16. Lee has become a controversial member of the state House of Representatives Republican caucus — a sentiment he proudly proclaimed to delegates, saying he aims to keep Utah from being “destroyed” like “leftist blue states.”

Lee has previously come under fire for social media posts attacking LGTBQ+ people and women, and other online comments spurred his Democratic colleagues to release a statement condemning “repeated racially-charged actions by elected officials on social media platforms.”

After collecting more than 1,000 voter signatures, Republican Daniela Harding will compete against Lee in the June primary election. His seat is considered vulnerable after he saw the lowest vote percentage, 48.5%, of any winning legislative candidate in the 2022 general election.

“I will prioritize practical solutions over political theatrics,” Harding told delegates, taking a dig at Lee.

Two other sitting state lawmakers — House District 17′s Rep. Stewart Barlow, of Fruit Heights, and House District 19′s Rep. Ray Ward, of Bountiful, who both collected signatures — will see their contests move on to a primary election after delegates voted to back their Republican opponents. Barlow will face Jennifer Garner, and Ward’s GOP challenger is Tenna Hartman.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A delegate casts a ballot during the Salt Lake County GOP convention in Murray on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Sen. Wayne Harper, the longest-serving member of the Legislature, was forced into a primary by state school board member Christina Boggess. Boggess beat Harper 53.8% to 46.2% among delegates. Harper had already qualified for the primary through signature gathering.

Incumbent Rep. Jeff Stenquist was drubbed in the convention vote by Draper City Council Member Cal Roberts. Roberts got 87.5% to Stenquist’s 12.5%. Roberts’s delegate win was merely symbolic, though, as both men collected signatures to move to a primary.

Doug Fiefia ran away with the GOP nomination in the race for House District 48 to replace incumbent Republican James Cobb, who is retiring from the Legislature after one term. Fiefia cruised past Goud Maragani, who unsuccessfully ran for Salt Lake County Clerk in 2022.

The race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Robert Spendlove is heading to a primary between Clint Okerlund and Chad Westover. Neither was able to reach the 60% threshold to win the nomination outright.

Former Rep. Rich Cunningham is taking another run at regaining the seat he gave up in 2016 when he unsuccessfully ran for Utah State Senate. Cunningham faces Tracy Miller in the primary election to replace Rep. Susan Pulsipher, who is retiring from the Legislature at the end of the year.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Carlos Moreno, candidate for Republican nomination for Salt Lake County Council District 2, speaks during the Salt Lake County GOP convention in Murray on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Rep. Ken Ivory easily defeated Lisa Dean among delegates. Dean avoided elimination on Saturday by qualifying for the primary ballot through signature gathering.

Former Rep. Fred Cox is also hoping for a return trip to the Utah Capitol. He won the nod from delegates on Saturday but must face David Parke, who gathered signatures, in the GOP primary.

State Sen. Daniel Thatcher is aiming to move from the Legislature to an open seat on the Salt Lake County Council, but he will have to win a primary election to capture the party nomination. Carlos Moreno was able to get the party nod from delegates, receiving more than 60% of the vote. Thatcher had already qualified for the primary election through the signature path before the convention.