Utah State Senator Todd Weiler has never been one to shy from a fight.
At the Davis County Republican Party Convention next week, Weiler will propose a resolution that thanks Utah State Senator Curt Bramble and Utah House Member Dan McCay for their work on SB 54. The law, passed in 2014, was born in the best tradition of legislative sausage making and was designed to stave off the Count My Vote efforts to end Utah’s caucus/convention system.
According to the resolution (find the full text below), many legislators believed that the Count My Vote ballot initiative–funded by some of the most prominent Republicans in the state–had sufficient signatures to get on the ballot and would likely pass if put to a plebiscite. SB 54 was intended as a compromise to allow the caucus to survive and also make way for easier access to the primary ballot without passing through party conventions.
After going public with his discontent about the GOP’s lawsuit and tangling with Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans on KVNU’s For the People, the resolution seems to be the next step in the tug-of-war over the future of the party. With it, Weiler continues an effort to provide, in his words, a “truthful, balanced narrative of the circumstances that led to the passage of SB 54.”
Proposing the resolution to Davis’s delegates is bold and, if passed, would increase the pressure on Evans, even as he turns his sights on reelection as state party chair (a totally thankless and unpaid job, even when things are going well).
If the party is indeed in crisis, as Utah Representative Jon Cox argued last week, then Weiler’s resolution moves the debate out of insider circles and deeper down among the party faithful (if there are more devoted Republicans than county party delegates–who don’t get to weigh in on state-wide or federal races, but still show up on a Saturday morning to hear speeches–I don’t know who they are). Delegates will be given an opportunity to take a vote on Weiler’s version of the events around SB 54.
Putting Davis on the record with this resolution will begin a shift in how support for SB 54 is seen by party faithful across the state. Passage would indicate support for the SB 54 changes to candidate selection, as well as softening support for Evans’ emphasis on ideological adherence within the party.
I do have to wonder if Weiler’s resolution, coming from a member of the legislature who voted for SB 54, is a bit…gratuitous? By carrying it himself, Weiler demonstrates equal parts guts and ego.
“Come at me, bro,” he seems to be saying.
A caveat: failure of the resolution would increase the divide between the party faithful and elected officials. It might nudge more candidates to bypass the convention altogether, a feasible route under SB 54.