U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney will again be facing the wrath of his fellow GOPers, at least some of them.

The Weber County Republican Party will consider a resolution to censure the senator at its convention on Saturday, similar to a measure that was considered and turned back at the Utah Republican Party convention on May 1. Both censure measures stem from Romney’s votes to impeach President Donald Trump in the two impeachment trials he faced.

Weber County Republicans will also pick a new leader to replace outgoing Chairwoman Lacy Richards, who isn’t running, and vote on other party posts. The two hopefuls to lead the party are Jake Sawyer, who’s held numerous roles in the party, and Brian Gray, who’s also been active in the party and is sponsor of the measure to censure Romney.

Weber County GOP chair candidates

Brian Gray, left, and Jake Sawyer are candidates for chair of the Weber County Republican Party, to be voted on at the party convention on Saturday, May 8, 2021.

Gray deferred comment on the censure proposal. “We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

However, one of the measure’s co-sponsors, Bob McEntee, said the push to impeach wasn’t justified given the evidence presented during the impeachment hearings and trials. He also noted with chagrin that Romney’s votes marked the first time in U.S. history that a senator had voted to impeach a president belonging to the same party.

Romney’s stance factored in Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden in presidential voting last year “and it didn’t help in the Senate,” which turned from Republican to Democratic control in the wake of the elections, McEntee charged. “It just fractured the party.”

Sawyer said the role of party chair is administrative, not to direct party delegates how to vote. But he offered a jab at the censure resolution.

“I don’t think we need to spend our time babysitting a U.S. senator,” Sawyer said. Party leaders have more important issues, he contends, like getting a Republican in the District 10 Utah House seat, now held by Rep. Rosemary Lesser, the only Democrat in Weber County’s state legislative delegation.

The censure measure at the state GOP convention — which drew a sharp rebuke from many GOPers who laud Romney’s stance on the impeachment issue — failed by a vote of 798-711. Notably, the state gathering at West Valley City was marked by a raucous response when Romney addressed conventiongoers, generating boos from his critics and garnering national media attention.

Richards, who will be overseeing next Saturday’s county convention, said she’s aiming to keep the convention free of such outbursts. “We’re not going to have that here in Weber County,” she said, saying the sort of “unacceptable behavior” the boisterous Romney critics exhibited detracts from the work party delegates are tasked with completing.

The Weber County censure measure contains similar language to the state proposal. McEntee said the impact such a proposal has may be largely symbolic, but it’s a way for delegates to have their voice heard. Washington County Republican Party delegates approved a resolution censuring Romney at their organizing convention last month, according to the St. George News.

“I wish Sen. Mitt Romney well and want him to be effective. I just want him to get the message,” McEntee said.

Richards, as party chairperson, didn’t take a position on the Weber County censure proposal but said she’s heard from plenty of Weber County Republicans on both sides of the issue. “There are strong feelings, but there’s definitely not a consensus,” she said. Such hot-button issues emerge, she said, but after Saturday’s vote, whatever the results, Republicans “need to come together with our shared values.”

GRAY AND SAWYERSawyer is a loans manager for a firm that offers home loans while Gray is a design engineer.

“Weber County has defined me, and now it’s my turn to give back. I believe the best way for me to serve Weber County is to strengthen our Republican Party. If we have a strong Republican Party, that means we keep good governance here at home, and we ensure our voice is heard at the state legislature,” Sawyer said in a statement on his candidacy. He’s served as precinct chair, district vice chair and volunteer “wherever I could.”

Sawyer has the endorsements of several elected GOP leaders from Weber County.

Gray, currently the party chair for Utah House District 7, touted his efforts at varied party conventions and caucuses.

“I have been instrumental in keeping the grassroots relevant in Weber County. I stood outside in the cold gathering signatures to stop the massive Utah tax hike,” he said, alluding to a measure that emerged in late 2019 but fizzled due to the strong outpouring of opposition that resulted. Without delving into details, he also said he was part of a team that found “massive voter fraud” in U.S. presidential voting last year in Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located.

Gray would focus on fundraising for the party and maintaining the party’s relevance via voter registration drives and efforts to bolster voter participation.

Weber County Republicans will also vote for the party’s vice chair. The candidates are Suzanne Ellison-Ferre, the incumbent, and Jackson Wing. Charles Ulrich is the sole hopeful for party treasurer and Lorraine Brown is the sole hopeful for the party’s secretary post.

Around 600 Republican delegates in all from Weber County are eligible to vote at Saturday’s convention, which will begin at 9 a.m. It’ll be held at Highmark Charter School, which is actually just over the county line in neighboring Davis County. Typically, Weber County Republicans hold their conventions at Weber County schools, but Weber School District officials aren’t allowing outside events at school facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted the search that led to the South Weber school.

Delegates will also be able to participate virtually and all voting will be handled electronically, Richards said. She said delegates with questions may send them to convention@webergop.org.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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