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Weber County GOP chairman rebuffs criticism from former party secretary

By Tim Vandenack - | Oct 23, 2021

EMILY ANDERSON, Standard-Examiner

Jake Sawyer, the newly elected chair of the Weber County Republican Party, shakes the hand of a delegate after being voted into the position during the party's annual organizing convention at HighMark Charter School in South Weber on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

OGDEN — The head of the Weber County Republican Party is rebuffing contentions that a leader in the party, Lorraine Brown, was forced out of her post.

Jake Sawyer, the party chairman, said in an emailed statement Friday that Brown, who stepped down as party secretary last week, had the option to remain and left of her own choosing. He had tried to be “as charitable as possible” in dealing with the sparks prompted by her controversial proposal to change party bylaws governing selection of the party’s candidates.

“I view this as internal party business and chose to treat the situation charitably,” said Sawyer, reacting after publication of a Standard-Examiner article online on Thursday outlining Brown’s grievances, an article that also quoted Sawyer. “Lorraine was not given any ultimatum and was provided the option to stay in her post and fight the allegations against her. She made the proactive decision to resign. Anything claiming the contrary is simply a lie.”

The issue of candidate selection is a delicate one for some, here and across Utah. Those who gather signatures to petition for a place on the ballot face a higher vote threshold at party conventions to get the party’s support than those who try to get on the ballot solely via convention, which Brown thinks is unfair. She had proposed eliminating the distinction in Weber County Republican Party bylaws and her plans were rebuffed at an Oct. 5 meeting of the party’s Central Committee.

A week after that, she was approached by party leaders, some still apparently simmering, and given an option to recant some of the critical comments she had made to the Standard-Examiner about her bid for change, resign her party post or face removal as party secretary. She stepped down on Oct. 14.

Sawyer, who regards Brown as a friend, singled out comments she made to the Standard-Examiner that he regards as “untrue, exaggerated and harmful” to the Weber County Republican Party. “Lorraine used derogatory and inflammatory remarks to disparage the group she was asked to represent,” Sawyer said.

What’s more, when he and Jackson Wing, vice chairperson of the party, approached her on the matter, she lashed out, as Sawyer described it. “We explained the list of complaints, and Lorraine was combative, she used threats to try to coerce her point of view, even as we remained calm and emphasized these were not our allegations,” Sawyer said.

Brown, in response, reiterated Friday that she was forced from the secretary post. “It most definitely was an ultimatum,” she said. She maintains that moves to change the way GOP candidates are picked at convention rub some in the party the wrong way, prompting the backlash she faced.

Either way, Brown has had some pointed criticism for some in the party. She lamented the existence of a “cult of Trump” inside the Weber County Republican Party, alluding to former President Donald Trump. She also said party bylaws geared against those who seek a place on the ballot via petition amount to “a power grab by the party elite.”

Photo supplied Lorraine Brown

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