He Who Is Without Sin: GOP Chair Asks Iron County Chair to Resign

Elephants-fight-GOPIn a letter, Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans has called on  Republican County Chair and legislative candidate Blake Cozzens to resign from his party position to avoid conflict of interest.

Under the Iron County Republican Party bylaws cited by Evans, the county party chair is restricted from endorsing any candidate for office until after a candidate has garnered the party’s nomination (find a screen shot of the letter below).

Blake Cozzens, Iron County Republican Chair and candidate for the Republican nomination for House District 72, has been asked by James Evans, Utah Republican Party Chair, to resign.
Blake Cozzens, Iron County Republican Chair and candidate for House District 72, was asked by James Evans to resign (Cozzens campaign website)

Within moments of posting the letter to the Utah Republican Party’s UnOfficial Page, a spirited debate broke out in the online forum, often digressing from an examination of the Iron County Republican Party’s rules to attacks on Senator Todd Weiler, who had posted the letter. The letter was re-posted across Facebook and similar discussions began.

Weiler has been accused of having his own issues when he gave a $500 donation to a candidate while Weiler was serving as Utah Republican Vice-Chair. Weiler did not see a conflict as he did not consider a donation an endorsement.

Evans himself has been quoted as saying he wants to recruit Mitt Romney to run in 2016. Would that be considered an endorsement or would that not count since Romney is not at the present moment an actual candidate?  Further, during a recent race to select a new state party treasurer, Evans endorsed and campaigned on behalf of Rick Votaw over the eventual winner, current Utah Republican Party Treasurer Cameron Robinson.

James Evans
James Evans, Utah Republican Party Chair, campaigns at the 2013 Utah Republican Convention (photo credit KUER)

This isn’t new, either. Utah GOP Chair Dave Hansen was accused of failing to disclose conflicts of interest when it emerged he was pulling down $5000 a month from Orrin Hatch during the his tenure as Utah Republican Party Chair.  Hansen explained it as payment for work he had performed prior  to his position as chair and that he had had the same opportunities and lists as everyone else in the party. 

For his own part, Cozzens doesn’t see an issue with running for the state legislature while also serving as party chair in his county, where county delegates will select the party nominee for the position.  Noting that his vice chair isn’t up to the task of running the impending county convention, Cozzens dismissed the state party’s involvement in his county party’s affairs.

“The state party has no authority to tell a county party what to do,” said Cozzens. “We’ve already determined this, and I’ll run for both house and remain chair while recusing myself from any possible conflicts.”

It isn’t the first time that the Iron County Republican Party has had a chair run for office. Casey Anderson, who was selected to fulfill an interim appointment to the Utah State Senate, stepped down as party chair upon counsel that to fail to do so would be a conflict of interest. Anderson won the special election against Evan Vickers to replace Dennis Stowell, but lost to Vickers in the next election.

With nearly all individuals involved in someway conflicted, or at some point violating conflicts of interest  in the past, it’s hard to tell who is “without sin” and merits the right to “cast the first stone.”

Party chairs at both the county and state level have clashed in the past over policy, and each carries a dual role of both promoting the candidates selected by party members and also shoring up the party to protect against outside attack. Then Salt Lake County Chair Julie Dole got into hot water when evidence emerged that she was asking then West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, who had been caught writing under a pen name to promote  West Valley, not to run for County Mayor, and just resigned Salt Lake County Chair Chad Bennion received repeated calls for his resignation when he advocated in support of the Fraternal Order of Police from his position as party chair.

Cozzens letter

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