PLEASANT VIEW — New leadership will be heading the Weber County Republican Party.
County GOPers gather Thursday for their organizing convention, and incumbent Chairwoman Lynda Pipkin and Vice Chairman Chris Jenkins aren't seeking reelection, meaning newcomers will be taking over the top party spots. Bill Olson, a semi-retired entrepreneur, and Ryan Wilcox, a former Utah House member, are running for chair while Charles Lovatt, Bob McEntee and Suzanne Ellison Ferre are running for vice chair.
Republican delegates will also weigh in on a proposed resolution that would let the party offer support only to candidates who back repeal of Senate Bill 54. That's the controversial 2014 measure, a point of contention among Weber County Republicans and GOPers statewide, that allows candidates to petition via signature for a spot on the ballot, bypassing the need for support at a party caucus.
- What do you think of the proposal targeting those who petition for a place on the ballot? Scroll to the bottom of the story and answer the survey question.
James Mackley of Pleasant View, author of the resolution, maintains that S.B. 54, by letting candidates bypass a party's formal screening process, is an infringement on the right of association of those involved in political groups. Any political party, he maintains, "has the right to decide on who their candidates will be." S.B. 54 supporters, by contrast, say some Republicans feel disenfranchised by the traditional caucus system used to pick party candidates, and the rift emerged as a hotpoint in 2018 elections.
Thursday's convention starts at 6 p.m. and will be held at Weber High School in Pleasant View.
Pipkin, chairwoman for three years, said she won't be seeking reelection owing to "health issues." She'll throw her support to whichever of the candidates for chair win.
"We have two awesome candidates running for chair. I'm excited whichever one gets elected," she said. The Republican Party dominates Weber County politics, though Lou Shurtliff won a Utah House seat last year, the first time a Democrat from the county nabbed a House post since 2010.
WILCOX AND OLSON
In a statement posted on the Republican Party website, Olson said he has 40 years experience in starting and developing businesses "across multiple industries." He's authored business plans, raised capital and managed companies. He's also held varied roles in both the Utah and Weber County Republican parties.
Among his goals in managing the Weber County Republican Party, he said on his website, would be "raising funds independent of special interests" to help party candidates. He calls raising $50,000 in 2019 and $100,000 in 2020, in part through firearms safety training programs.
The party, moreover, must become "more relevant" in the community to draw membership and candidates.
He called S.B. 54 "the law of the land" until it can be changed or abolished, but didn't call outright for its repeal. "The challenge now is how to keep the voice of the elected neighborhood representative relevant in a signature-gathering world," he said.
Wilcox served in the District 7 Utah House seat from 2009 to 2014 and also served on U.S. Sen. Mike Lee's staff as a liaison for northern Utah and policy advisor until last November. "In that role, he built relationships across the state, building coalitions and support for constitutionally sound, principled policies," Wilcox wrote.
Wilcox has also served the Republican Party as a state and county delegate and now works in the private sector.
His website didn't refer to S.B. 54 by name, but he called for restoring "the value of the caucus system" and offered a message of support for candidates that get on the ballot through the GOP caucus. "You — the delegate — play a critical role in selecting those candidates that support our platform, and it is the party’s responsibility to make sure that those candidates are elected!" he wrote.
Lovatt, candidate for vice chair, voiced strong support for the caucus system in a statement to the Weber County Republican Party and sounded support for repealing S.B. 54. In his statement, McEntee, also a vice chair candidate, focused on his involvement with the Republican Party since he could vote in 1982. In her statement, Ferre, the third vice chair hopeful, touted her extensive experience with the Weber County Republican Party, her involvement helping Republican candidates, her community involvement and her work in education as a teacher and administrator.
Sharlene Pitman, the incumbent party secretary, is the only candidate for that post. No candidate is listed for party treasurer, but Pipkin says Stephen Johnson, the incumbent, may be nominated to the post from the convention floor.