By Jesse Harris

Something that really gets under my skin is when someone seems to think the rules simply do not apply to them. It only gets amplified when they are also trying to leverage their family name in the process. Jim Bennett is in the process of doing both so he’s getting a double dose of my ire for his recent shenanigans with the Lt. Governor’s office.

Let me be completely clear: as of today, the United Utah Party is a recognized political party by the state of Utah. Their signatures were validated well before the maximum 30 days. That’s not in dispute in the least. I’ll be interested to see if they field a reasonable number of candidates in the 2018 election cycle or if this is just a vehicle for one guy who didn’t want the “stain” of running unaffiliated.

But that’s kind of the problem. It’s a party now. It was not a party at the close of candidate filing. In fact, the signatures to establish the party were turned in on the last day of filing with the candidate signatures, an impossible length of time to validate that the party exists before that deadline.

It didn’t have to be this way. Jason Chaffetz hinted that he might be stepping down before the end of his term on April 19. Bennett was obviously planning on running on the family name (his father is the late ex-Senator Bob Bennett) well before this. That would have left plenty of time to gather signatures for the new party and his candidacy well in advance. Sure, he probably had the rug pulled out from under him by having to run now rather than in a year, but it’s not like there wasn’t an opportunity.

Jim Bennett

So, obviously, Bennett can’t run as a member of this party that doesn’t exist and it’s basically all his fault for not jumping on it when it was obvious that things were coming at him fast. His reaction, though, hasn’t been graceful at all.

Instead of accepting that he just wasn’t prepared to run the way he wanted to, he instead chose to demand that Lt. Governor Spencer Cox simply make up election law on the spot. The novel proposition is that as long as his political party is eventually a party and the signatures for the party are turned in before the candidate deadline it should be accepted provisionally. There’s not a single state law to support this. Filing as a party and filing as a candidate are two completely separate and unjoined actions. In effect, Bennett is asking the state to simply make something up out of thin air because he wasn’t prepared to move quickly. All of this was after he explicitly said that he would run as unaffiliated if the state could not verify his signatures before the candidate filing deadline.

Honestly, this kind of amateur hour campaign calls into question if Bennett is really all that fit to be a member of Congress. Missing deadlines, demanding that laws be made up on the spot, and backtracking on a campaign promise almost as soon as he’s filed? Bang-up start there, man.

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