While speaking to reporters at lunchtime on Wednesday regarding the current state of affairs between warring factions of the Utah Republican Party, Senator Curt Bramble (Republican – Provo), author of the “dual-track” to the primary ballot (SB54 in 2014), said that Utah Republicans believe in and uphold the rule of law. He also said that challenges to current election law should be decided by the Lieutenant Governor whose responsibility and authority over elections is paramount.
“The devil’s in the details, I understand that, but the 30,000-foot view is to give the Lieutenant Governor the authority to decide the status of a party,” Bramble said. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser was very quick to endorse Bramble’s statement within the same conversation.
Since authoring and supervising the passage of 2014’s SB-54, disaffected party members have wanted their neighborhood caucus systems reinstated as before, denying a signature-gathering pathway as an option for current candidates attempting to get on Utah’s primary ballot by merely getting the required number of signatures. Critics contend that this caucus-only pathway restricts public participation and allows the primary ballot to be ruled and decided only by an inside few. Present, intraparty turmoil includes allowing party loyalists to define who is and who is not a real Republican.
“At the end of the day, we want a pathway where any citizen can gain access to the ballot, declaring what political party they’re affiliated with and have that party affiliation on the ballot,” Bramble emphasized. When asked what advice he would give to potential candidates for November’s ballots in Utah, Bramble referred to U.S. Senator Mike Lee from the 2016 cycle, who had said then that anyone who doesn’t sign-up to get signatures, “is committing political malpractice.”
One of the Utah GOP faithful, Claire Ellis from Providence, Utah and a former party leader there, said of the Mike Lee assertion, “In Cache, County, council jobs are essentially volunteer work, as are state legislator positions. [They result in] minimal stipend for partial hours worked. Bypassing the local party just to get that position [with signatures only] is a different equation than running for the US Senate. The whole campaign budget might be $1,000, including the convention and a couple of ads. Adding a redundant layer of signatures might triple that,” said Ellis.
Opponents to the COUNT MY VOTE effort, which spawned the 2014 law Governor Herbert signed in March of that year, have been challenging the dual pathway options ever since that time. They did not respond for comment when contacted by Utah Political Capitol.
The Utah Democratic Party, through their Executive Director, Alex Cragun, issued a statement on the matter, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling echoing the Senate leadership. Cragun wrote, “The court stated that ‘if the Utah Republican Party chooses otherwise’ its eligibility as a qualified political party would be actionable.
CIting recent coverage from UtahPolicy.com, the Dems said, “On Saturday, the Utah Republican Party (URP) passed a new bylaw that prohibits some candidates from seeking to gain access to the primary ballot through signature gathering. In other words, the URP ‘chose otherwise.’ Its Chair even acknowledged as much in repeated public statements.” The state Dems, with Cragun as voice, called upon Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox to rescind the URP’s eligibility as a qualified political party. Cragun concluded by stating, “LG Cox cannot pick and choose which laws he enforces, particularly where the law at issue has repeatedly been declared constitutional by every court that has reviewed it.”
BRAMBLE AUDIO PLAYER HERE: