Rob Anderson elected as new Utah GOP Chair

by John English

The Utah GOP Convention was held at the Southtown Expo Center last Saturday. It’s an exciting time, not only because the party officers are up for election, but there’s jockeying for position for hopefuls vying for the soon-to-be-vacant seat of Jason Chaffetz.

The usual signs and T-shirts blanketing the place. I was able to listen to each candidate for Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary, not to mention the CD3 possibles in Deidre Henderson, Brad Daw, and Margaret Dayton. I know other people have joined, but these three feel like the real race.

The biggest resolutions were about how to handle Jason Chaffetz’s vacancy, and whether to support the legalization of medical cannabis.

I asked someone (Nate Jackson, I believe) at Orrin Hatch’s booth why the senator was running again after he promised not to. He said that Hatch hasn’t completely decided yet. He said that Donald Trump really wants him to stay in DC, that he’s one of his favorite senators. (I’m paraphrasing.) He’d be willing to step aside if he was confident his replacement would serve Utah well, which is why he said if Mitt Romney wanted his senate seat, he’d retire.

Through looking at the websites, I became comfortable with endorsing Rob Anderson for the new UTGOP chair. The party needed a different direction from James Evans, and I felt like Phill Wright, the current vice-chair, would be more of the same.

With vice-chair, I just had no idea. I listened to all four at their booths and when I reached out for others’ opinions I got pros and cons on them all. I ultimately voted for Joni Crane.

For the convention, when the candidates gave their speeches, I figured James was toast. His opening joke was about how these people must be vying for his job because he made it look too easy. Then he slammed Phill Wright for being an absentee Vice-Chair and Rob Anderson for being for Count My Vote. Phill made a comment in his speech about unity as a seeming counter to what James said, and then Rob spoke about how the party’s fiscally off-track. Rob Anderson won.

In the vice-chair speeches, I don’t know if anyone gained or lost votes by what they said. Natalie Callahan and Joe Levi were lesser known and came in third and fourth, respectively. Joni Crane ultimately won.

In the secretary race, Speaker Greg Hughes introduced Cole Souza for his speech, and Cole was good, but I think Lisa Shepherd really nailed her speech. Whoever gets to speak last at these things has a real advantage. Lisa won with 55%.

The rules adoption, as usual, had debates with proposed amendments, as did the resolution debates. The one that embarrassed me, angered me, downright made me ashamed was the debate over legalizing medical cannabis. Two of the three who argued against it were connected to pharmaceutical companies, and the opponents compared cannabis to everything from cocaine to thalidomide. Thalidomide! And yet 70% of the Utah GOP delegates fell for it. On the way home, I passed a billboard that urged Utah to not be blind to our opioid epidemic. The ironic juxtaposition was not lost on me.

The other resolution that passed that surprised me was our vote on how to select Jason Chaffetz’s replacement. The delegates will be meeting next month to vote, and it will be multi-round voting until someone gets 50.1%. Normally the threshold is 60% to avoid a primary, but the vote was for no primary. The delegates will pick who the Republican nominee is. (I’m one of them. If you live in CD3, send me your feedback on the candidates.) Ultimately though, there will still be a primary.

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