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Rep. Phil Lyman’s running mate not eligible for gubernatorial ticket, election officials say

Independent adviser on governor’s race issues opinion that Layne Bangerter doesn’t meet residency eligibility requirements for the office of lieutenant governor.

By Katie McKellar - Utah News Dispatch | Apr 30, 2024

Hannah Schoenbaum, Associated Press

Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman, a candidate for governor, addresses nearly 4,000 delegates at the Utah Republican Party Convention on Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Salt Lake City.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s challenger Rep. Phil Lyman ran into trouble Monday when his newly-picked running mate Layne Bangerter, a former Donald Trump administrator and campaign director, tried to file his application to join Lyman’s ticket.

A filing officer at the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office declined to accept Bangerter’s declaration of candidacy form Monday morning based on the Utah Constitution‘s residency requirements that candidates, in order to be eligible to be governor or lieutenant governor, must live in the state of Utah for at least five continuous years before the election.

Later Monday afternoon, former Lieutenant Gov. Greg Bell — an independent adviser who is handling complaints and election issues in the 2024 race, given Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Cox are both running for reelection — issued an opinion that Bangerter “does not meet the qualifications” to be lieutenant governor because he hasn’t lived in Utah long enough leading up to the 2024 election.

“While it appears that Mr. Bangerter has been a resident of Utah at various times of his life, media has reported, and Mr. Bangerter has acknowledged, that he moved to Utah from Idaho in 2021, and that he has not been a resident of Utah for ‘five years next preceding the [2024] election,'” Bell wrote, citing the Utah Constitution.

Bell said that conclusion is supported by documentation from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office that shows Bangerter is registered to vote in Idaho and voted in Idaho in the November 2020 election.

Photo supplied, Lyman’s campaign

Utah governor candidate Rep. Phil Lyman, left, poses for a photo with his running mate Layne Bangerter at the Utah Republican Party’s nominating convention on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

“In light of the constitutional eligibility requirements and the relevant application of the Utah Election Code, Mr. Bangerter does not meet the qualifications for the Office of Lieutenant Governor,” Bell wrote. “Therefore, the filing officers in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office are expressly precluded from accepting his declaration of candidacy.”

Bell therefore recommended Henderson and her office follow state law and “decline” submission of Bangerter’s declaration of candidacy. Ryan Cowley, director of elections, told Utah News Dispatch in a text message Monday that Henderson concurred with Bell’s opinion.

Bell also recommended the Lieutenant Governor’s Office inform Bangerter and Lyman’s campaign “of this decision and of the process for challenging the decision regarding this controversy.”

Lyman’s campaign is taking the issue to court. Later Monday, Lyman and Bangerter filed a petition in Utah’s 3rd Judicial District Court to require state elections officials to accept Bangerter’s candidate filing declaration, arguing he “met the constitutional requirements.”

Lyman doubles down

“I feel like they’re straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel on this,” Lyman told Utah News Dispatch on Monday, shortly before Bell’s opinion was issued.

Lyman, who won the Utah Republican Party’s convention nomination on Saturday but will face Cox during the June primary because Cox qualified for the ballot by gathering signatures, said he wouldn’t budge from having Bangerter as his running mate.

“Layne’s my guy,” Lyman said, though he added, “there are definitely other people that were on the shortlist for consideration. If we go to court and a judge rules against us, then obviously we can cross that bridge when we come to it. But for right now, the ticket is Lyman-Bangerter. We’re sticking with that.”

Amid concerns about Bangerter’s residency eligibility — first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune shortly after Lyman announced Bangerter as his running mate — Lyman’s campaign issued a statement Monday morning claiming the Utah Constitution’s residency requirement language was “ambiguous” and could be interpreted in a way to allow Bangerter to serve as lieutenant governor.

“The Utah Constitution states that a candidate for lieutenant governor must be a ‘resident citizen of the state for five years next preceding the election.’ This ambiguous language is often thought to mean the residency requirement must be immediately preceding the election for a consecutive number of years,” Lyman’s campaign said, pointing to an Ohio Supreme Court case while claiming it ruled “this language to mean any period of the required number of years preceding the election.”

“In other words the legal interpretation of the term ‘next’ in this context would require any period of five years preceding the 2024 election,” Lyman’s campaign concluded. “Layne Bangerter easily meets this requirement and is a fully qualified candidate for lieutenant governor.”

However, legal minds including attorney and Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, doubt Lyman’s campaign’s interpretation will hold up in court. While Lyman’s camp cited an Ohio case, Weiler pointed to a 2012 Utah Supreme Court case in which Justice Tom Lee interpreted the Utah Constitution to say that in order for someone to be eligible for the governor’s office, a person must (among other requirements) be a resident of the state “for at least the five preceding years.”

Weiler on Sunday sarcastically posted on X that Lyman had “brilliantly picked a Lt. Gov. running mate who isn’t constitutionally eligible to serve.”

“A key component of leadership is to own your mistakes,” Weiler wrote. “I’m calling on Phil Lyman to follow the Utah Constitution and name a running mate who is qualified to serve as Lt. Governor.”

The senator told Utah News Dispatch on Monday that Lyman’s interpretation using an Ohio Supreme Court case was “misplaced at best,” and he doubted whether the argument would hold up in Utah courts.

“It’s fascinating because I think what Rep. Lyman should say is, ‘Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Todd, I’m going to fix it by appointing a running mate who’s qualified to serve.’ … But instead they kind of doubled down on what to me is obviously a mistake.”

Weiler, who is a supporter of Cox, said his backing of Cox is “irrelevant” in the debate.

“If I’m right, I’m right. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. The fact that I’m a Cox supporter is irrelevant to whether the Constitution requires a five-year residency for the five years preceding the election.”

Weiler said if Lyman continues to campaign with Bangerter as his running mate and beats Cox, Bangerter could hit another roadblock if he attempts to be sworn in as lieutenant governor.

“Then the LG could not be sworn in” based on residency requirements, Weiler said. “At that point, (Lyman would) have to pick someone else and then that person would have to be confirmed by the Utah Senate.”

Democratic candidate Brian King selects running mate

Also on Monday, Cox’s Democratic challenger Brian King announced he’d picked University of Utah librarian Rebekah Cummings as his running mate.

Cummings, who filed her declaration of candidacy without any issues Monday afternoon, has lived in Utah for 11 years, according to King’s campaign.

“A mom. A public servant. A librarian. A defender against book banning and censorship. Utahns will be well served by Rebekah’s leadership through her advocacy for intellectual freedom and commitment to empowering families,” King wrote in a letter to Henderson’s office naming Cummings as his running mate.

“Utahns are tired of the chaos and control. Together, Rebekah and I are building a coalition of pragmatists, not purists — those who want the government to get back to doing its job.”

Cummings is director of digital matters and associate librarian at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library. She also chairs the Utah State Library Board and is a founding member of the anti-book banning advocacy group Let Utah Read Coalition, according to King’s website. She lives in Salt Lake City.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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