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Weber County Republican Party leader steps down — forced out, she says

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 21, 2021

BENJAMIN ZACK, Standard-Examiner file photo

Lorraine Brown in a file photo from June 5, 2018, taken at a debate at Pleasant Valley Library in Washington Terrace during her unsuccessful bid that year for a seat in the Utah House.

OGDEN  — A member of the Weber County Republican Party Executive Committee who had pushed for change in how the party picks candidates has stepped down, forced out by other party leaders, she maintains, because of her controversial proposal.

“My viewpoint was unacceptable to the inner core, so they asked me to resign,” Lorraine Brown, who had served as secretary of the county party until stepping down late last week, said Thursday.

She had proposed changing how the party picks its candidates, eliminating distinctions spelled out in the group’s bylaws between those who seek a place on the ballot solely through party convention and those who also go the signature-gathering route. Those who go the signature-gathering route face a higher vote threshold to get the party’s nod at convention than those who try to get on the ballot solely via convention, which Brown thinks is unfair.

Her proposal to eliminate the differences — an ongoing point of contention among some Utah GOPers — fizzled at an Oct. 5 meeting of the Weber County Republican Party Central Committee. Foes questioned the legality of the wording of the measure, soundly defeated at a September meeting of the party’s executive committee, and it was pulled from consideration. Brown said she didn’t think anything more of the topic.

But last week, other party leaders reached out to her, Brown said, and gave her an ultimatum. Either recant critical statements she had made to the Standard-Examiner suggesting President Donald Trump had created division among Republicans, resign or face removal from her post by the party’s executive committee. She had lamented the “cult of Trump” within the county party in an Oct. 4 Standard-Examiner story on her proposal, a statement that apparently irked some.

Brown, an Ogden lawyer, opted to step down and didn’t go public with the news until the Standard-Examiner, which independently learned of the turn of events, contacted her for comment. A recent Weber County Republican Party newsletter referenced Brown’s resignation, without providing additional details, and said a meeting of the party’s central committee was scheduled for Nov. 9 to pick a replacement.

“There’s nothing illegal that I did and I want everyone in the party to know that,” Brown said.

Furthermore, she said party members are owed an explanation over what happened. “The party elected me. The party’s entitled to know why I resigned,” she said.

Jake Sawyer, chairman of the Weber County Republican Party, didn’t dive into the details of what happened. “There were some things that were brought up that we’ve moved past,” he said.

But he rebuffed the characterization that Brown was pressured from her post. “Lorraine was given an option and multiple options,” he said. He is on good terms with her, he said, and she’s “absolutely” welcome in the party.

Moreover, Sawyer said it wasn’t her proposal to change how candidates are picked at party conventions that created the backlash against her, though he didn’t provide additional details. Her Trump-related comments seemed to bother some, but Brown maintains it was her pursuit of change in the candidate-selection process that’s at the root of the matter.

Some GOPers prefer selection of candidates only via party convention and are leery of the Republican credentials of those who opt to get on the ballot via collection of signatures, though it’s allowed under state law. In collecting signatures to get on the ballot, candidates may get signatures from any eligible registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, which is worrisome to party stalwarts.

Had Brown stayed in the post, some Republican Party executive committee members were apparently prepared to try to force her out by triggering provisions in party bylaws governing conflicts of interest, according to Sawyer and Brown. The bylaws state that political candidates or those holding elective office can’t hold offices in the party and give executive committee members leeway in determining other potential conflicts of interest that can lead to ouster.

“Other matters that may constitute a conflict of interest shall be decided by a 60% vote of a 50% quorum of the voting (executive committee). Conflict of interests, or the appearance thereof, may be resolved by removal from office or other appropriate actions as determined,” the bylaws read.

Despite the apparent hackles she raised among some GOPers, Brown defended her party credentials.

“I’ve been a Republican all my life. I’ve been a straight-arrow Republican all my life,” she said. “I’m a Republican because I believe in conservative principles.”

She also hasn’t strayed from her belief that the candidate-selection process in the county party needs to be adjusted. “I’m hopeful at some point these issues can be raised again because they’re extremely relevant,” she said.


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