Some general thoughts and reactions to the events at the Utah GOP convention on August 15, 2015:
People who paid $25,000 were allowed to speak for eight minutes before the main body of the convention. The speakers were Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Senator Mike Lee, Governor Gary Herbert, and Overstock.com CEO Jonathan Johnson, who plans to challenge Herbert in the primary in 2016. Johnson had this odd moment when he asked people to text to a number if they wanted him and Herbert to have a series of debates or not. I could see Herbert acting like Hatch last time: do only one debate if polls show he needs it.
As Utah GOP Chair James Evans was running for re-election, he had Enid Mickelsen conduct the meeting. Usually, the adoption of the rules and agenda are where things can grind to a halt. Most of the debate and discussion of rules and bylaws happens at different meetings, but it is at state convention where some delegates want to amend certain rules. We got stuck for about an hour on these. If you’ve never sat that through a debate over party rules at a convention, just imagine the senate scenes from the Star Wars prequels and make them 1000 times less interesting.
There was a special presentation to Senator Orrin Hatch of some kind of Ronald Reagan Conservative award, which included a promotional video for Hatch (first ever, apparently), and then he gave a rambling acceptance speech. I can only describe the applause as polite. I also don’t understand who came up with this award, since even some party leaders didn’t know about it until this morning. When Ben Winslow asked Hatch if he was running for re-election, Hatch said it was “too soon” to be thinking about that. Rather than reiterate his pledge from 2012 that he would NOT run again. Translation: Hatch is running again.
Evans had no challengers for Utah Republican Chair. For Vice-Chair we had candidates Kathleen Anderson, Phill Wright, and Rick Votaw. Anderson gave a straightforward speech. Wright spoke about how effective he was at raising money as Davis County GOP Chair (to which some Davis county delegates near me said he spent it all on fighting SB54). Then Evans and about fifteen others lined up to endorse Votaw. Evans spoke, then Stan Lockhart spoke.
For Secretary, we had Bryce Christensen, a young man who came in on time by delivering his speech like the Micro-Machines pitchman, and Jacquie Nelson, a creative speller of first names. For Treasurer, we had Mel Nimer (who had some negative material circulated against him a couple of days ago about his fraud conviction in 1993) and Abram Young, who was introduced by LaVar Christensen.
Christensen and Young won easily. Anderson (who had received her own share of negative campaigning a couple of days ago – see how these things work? – that she’d signed the CMV petition) came in third, so she endorsed Votaw for the second round of balloting. Wright still won. Just thought I’d point out that both women who ran for party office lost.
Next we had Proposal #1, which would give the party more control over who can call themselves a Republican on the ballot (the “litmus test” amendment). At this point, we were approaching 3:00 pm, another well-intentioned convention running long. Proposal #1 passed. Then Kirby Glad, former Utah County GOP secretary and current state delegate, proposed we suspend the rules and just have one block vote on Proposals 2-4. I was very much against this, because I did not want Proposal 4, but Evans swiftly asked for a vote on this and it passed, and suddenly there was no discussion on 2-4, and we had one block vote. It was almost farcical.
Next Mia Love addressed the delegates, and I wanted to hear the outgoing speeches of Michelle Mumford, Cameron Robinson, et. al., but I had to get back to my family. And I feel for those delegates who came from Logan, Monticello and St. George. Incidentally, about 53% of delegates showed up.
Props to the organizers, props to the volunteers who made it run smoothly, props to those brave souls who run for these thankless jobs. I wish I had a solution for better situating the convention agenda so that by the time we get to important voting, the majority of the body isn’t so tired that they’ll vote for whatever gets them out the door sooner.