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Davis County GOP focused on elections as Lee-Handy flap simmers

By Tim Vandenack - | May 5, 2022

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This combination photo shows Trevor Lee, left, the Republican candidate for the District 16 Utah House seat in the 2022 cycle, and Rep. Stephen Handy, who currently holds the post.

The back-and-forth between Trevor Lee and Rep. Stephen Handy that initially stemmed from controversial comments Lee made in reference to the transgender community simmers on.

A Davis County Republican Party leader, meantime, is trying to move beyond the dispute, which underscores the sometimes fraught relationship between conservative and moderate Republicans in Utah.

Lee, a Republican Utah House candidate from Layton, called out Handy on Thursday for remarks Handy made earlier this week suggesting possible convergence between Lee and the white supremacy movement. Lee defeated Handy, the incumbent District 16 House member, at the Davis County Republican Party convention in March, edging him out for a place on the November ballot as the GOP standard-bearer.

“I think it is borderline slander what he is trying to do,” Lee said, referencing the comments Handy made to KSL NewsRadio. Aside from rejecting any sort of label as racist, Lee also blasted the Davis County Republican Party for not coming out against Handy for his remarks. In a statement last Saturday, the party had condemned Lee, saying his earlier comments referencing transgender people were “transphobic,” the root of the ongoing flap.

“They need to call out Steve Handy for what he did,” Lee said. Lee aligns more with the conservative side of the party while Handy is more moderate.

Handy, in turn, offered an apology for his white supremacy comments, contained within his response on Monday to Lee’s use of a derogatory term for transgender people during a podcast last week. “I walk that back and I apologize for saying that. I do not think he’s a white supremacist or racist,” Handy said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Daniela Harding, chairperson of the Davis County Republican Party, said she has reached out to Handy, telling him his comments were “unwarranted.”

The party’s focus, she went on, is helping Lee and other Republican candidates get elected in November. “Politics can, at times, be heated. I applaud both Trevor Lee and Steve Handy for apologizing for their recent inappropriate statements,” Harding said in an email.

Handy, nevertheless, said he is still mulling a write-in bid against Lee for the District 16 post, saying Lee’s comments in the April 26 podcast, even if they aren’t racist, don’t befit a lawmaker. District 16 covers much of northern Layton.

“It’s incompatible with someone who wants to go to Capitol Hill and represent our district,” Handy said.

The complicated back-and-forth has its roots in the April 26 podcast of the “The Modern Conservative,” hosted by Jon Harvey. That’s when Lee used the derogatory term for transgender people while discussing the controversial Utah measure that prohibits transgender females from participating in interscholastic sports.

Lee also spoke critically of the LBGTQ community. Though he later said he has no problem with gay people, he derisively questioned what he says are apparent efforts by some to unite the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements.

“You’ll see the black and brown now in the LGBTQ flag,” Lee said, referring to black and brown stripes added to some versions of the multicolored pride flag. “I mean, it’s kind of mixed together. I’m like, that’s embarrassing. I wouldn’t want to be associated with those people. It’s sad, it really is.”

Lee also spoke scathingly of “crazy white liberals,” among many other topics.

In an interview on Tuesday with the Standard-Examiner, Handy blasted Lee’s language in referring to transgender people. In the interview Monday with KSL NewsRadio, which prompted the backlash from Lee on Thursday, Handy went further.

“It smacks of not only the transphobia things, but a little bit of racism may be in there. It comes off to me as almost white supremacy,” Handy told KSL. He went on: “There’s just kind of threads of stuff in there of really extreme, extreme views, you know.”

Lee posted a statement on Facebook after the podcast saying he hadn’t known the term he used referencing transgender people was derogatory and that he’d stop using it. He told the Standard-Examiner he’s sorry for the flare-up over the comment.

In blasting Handy for his KSL comments, meantime, Lee noted that Harvey, the host of the podcast where he made the remarks in question, is Black. Harvey, too, referenced Handy’s comments in a subsequent podcast on Tuesday.

“I had no problem with what (Lee) said. I had no problem whatsoever,” Harvey said. He went on, alluding to Handy’s white supremacy remarks: “You said on my d— podcast we sounded like racists and white supremacists. Well let me inform you — I’m Black. Yes, I’m a conservative who happens to be Black and I make no bones about it.”

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