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Weber County GOP rules on candidate selection stay as is, challenge fizzles

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 7, 2021

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Lorraine Brown speaks at a meeting of the Weber County Republican Women group at the Ice Sheet in Ogden on Sept. 13, 2021. She leads that group and is also seeking change to the way the Weber County Republican Party picks candidates at its conventions.

OGDEN — The Weber County Republican Party candidate selection process, favoring those who seek a place on the ballot solely through party convention, will remain as is.

Lorraine Brown, secretary of the county party, had sought consideration of a change to party bylaws that would have eliminated distinctions between candidates who seek a place on the ballot solely via party convention and those who also go the signature-gathering route. It’s a wonky topic, but a controversial one that has generated plenty of heat among Republicans in Weber County and across the state in recent years.

At any rate, Brown’s effort fizzled at Tuesday’s meeting of the Weber County Republican Party Central Committee after her proposed amendment was rejected on procedural grounds because the wording apparently didn’t pass legal muster. The measure — which bears on the sort of candidates that get formal GOP backing — was never debated and didn’t get a vote.

“It was tabled due to a procedural issue that had nothing to do with the merits of the amendment,” Brown said.

Jake Sawyer, chairman of the party, didn’t immediately respond to queries seeking comment.

As is, the Weber County party’s bylaws favor GOP candidates who solely seek a place on the ballot through nomination at convention by fellow party members. Candidates may also vie for a place on the ballot through collection of signatures on petitions from registered voters, per state law. But some GOPers worry that process allows candidates to bypass vetting by party stalwarts, threatening the caliber of candidates who ultimately get on the ballot under the Republican banner.

The issue is personal for Brown, an Ogden lawyer who also heads the Weber County Republican Women club.

She was defeated in a 30-29 vote by Travis Campbell at the Republican Party convention last year in her bid for a spot on the ballot in the race for the District 10 seat in the Utah House. Because Campbell had sought a place on the ballot solely via nomination by his fellow Republicans, he was the only GOP nominee to emerge from the convention. Brown had also sought nomination via collection of signatures and after she failed to meet the number needed, she never made it to the ballot.

Given the Weber County Republican Party’s bylaws, Brown would have made it onto the primary ballot along with Campell after the 30-29 loss if she had solely sought nomination at convention, and that’s the sort of double-standard she seeks to change. The party’s nomination process also came under fire by other Weber County Republicans after the 2018 party convention.

Specifically, a convention-only candidate in Weber County only needs to muster 30% of the vote at the party convention in a race against a candidate also seeking a place on the ballot via signatures to get on the primary ballot, according to the bylaws. A candidate seeking a place on the ballot via signatures and at the party convention, by contrast, must garner more than 50% of the vote at a convention to get on the primary ballot via that route.

Per her proposed change, the top two Republican finishers at a convention would move to the primary ballot, whether or not either or both also seek a spot via signatures, unless one garners 60% or more of the vote. If a candidate were to get more than 60% of the vote, that person would be the sole convention nominee.

When her proposal came up for debate at Tuesday’s meeting, Brown said one of the party members present moved to remove it from the agenda because of the legally problematic language it contained. Brown proposed amending the wording so it would pass muster but wasn’t allowed to do so, she said.

The proposal was moved off the agenda after the objection and Brown appealed, but her appeal was rejected so the proposal died. “There was definitely an effort to just kill it. They didn’t even want it discussed,” she said.

Brown proposed a similar change at a meeting last month of the Weber County Republican Party’s Executive Committee, but it was soundly defeated. Nevertheless, she said she won’t give up on the issue and she hopes the proceedings at last Tuesday’s meeting spurs debate on the issue.

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