Utah LG Spencer Cox extends olive branch to GOP Chair James Evans, explains state’s SB 54 legal position

Can a soft answer turn away wrath?

In a letter yesterday, Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox responded to a letter from Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans with an apology and an explanation of the state’s legal position on SB 54 issues. In the letter to Cox, sent earlier this month, Evans requested that the LG’s office identify differences of opinion regarding the application of SB 54. The exchange of letters comes in the wake of a court decision allowing the Republican Party to close the Primary to unaffiliated voters. (Both letters are found embedded below)

While Cox leads the state elections office, he is also a Republican, making for a sometimes awkward situation as the Utah Republican Party has engaged in a dispute over the 2014 election law in court.

Utah LG Spencer Cox extends olive branch to Utah GOP Chair James Evans, explains state's SB 54 legal position
Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox

In his response letter, Cox addresses the legal issues raised by Evans, including  regarding whether individuals have the right to choose to access the ballot through signature collection or the caucus/convention system, or whether the Republican Party has the right to choose the method of candidate selection.

Cox, citing sections of state statute and relying upon advice from the Attorney General’s office, disagrees that the Republican Party can limit candidates to the caucus/convention path and retain its Qualified Political Party status.

In a personal note in the letter, Cox also addresses his own par in the dispute: a Republican opposed to Count My Vote but duty bound to uphold the law once passed:

“That being said, being wedged between the law and my party has been one of the most difficult parts of my job. And, because of that, I know that things have been tense for everyone involved. In light of that, I would like to extend an apology on behalf of myself and my office. When the situation was posited that candidates like Senator Lee and members of our House delegation would be kicked out of the party if they chose to pursue both the convention and signature route, my Chief Deputy responded by calling everything that was swirling around as “crazy stuff.” While this may have sounded like a direct attack on you, it was not intended to be. I sincerely hope you will accept my personal apology and an apology from my entire staff. We have both been placed in difficult situations, and I truly respect your willingness to navigate this new law together.”

Cox goes on to thank Evans for proposing a joint effort to seek clarification from the courts and agrees to work with Evans to expedite getting to judicial clarity.

Find both letters below.

Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox Letter 11.19.2015


Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans letter, 11.10.2015

Correction: a previous draft indicated that Spencer Cox opposed SB 54 prior to passage; however, as LG, Cox never took a position on SB 54. 

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