OGDEN — Last-minute changes to rules governing the Weber County Republican Party convention worked to the advantage of one candidate who otherwise would have been eliminated from the June 26 GOP primary ballot.
At the same time, the changes — adopted Saturday morning, shortly before convention voting began — dashed the hopes of another Utah House hopeful, Dan Deuel, who would likely have made the ballot.
“This is the worst (convention) I’ve ever seen,” said Deuel, an active member of the local Republican Party who’s taken part in most GOP conventions here dating to 2004. He’s now looking into suing the party, saying he was unfairly denied a spot on the primary ballot in the District 7 Utah House race.
The changes, made in October by the Weber County Republican Party, underscored statewide division among GOPers over the divide between the caucus/convention system and the signature petition route. The county’s rule changes made the convention route tougher for anyone both gathering signatures and participating in the convention.
Some critics said the changes didn’t properly spell out the candidate-selection process in some scenarios.
“They basically hadn’t been really scrutinized until we got closer to the election,” Steve Waldrip, member of the central and executive committees of the Weber County Republican Party, said.
That led to the second set of tweaks on Saturday, overwhelmingly approved by GOP delegates in a voice vote before they set about weighing in on the varied GOP candidates for county and state offices.
But still, confusion seemed to reign in some instances, according to Deuel and Waldrip. The latter actually secured a place on the GOP primary ballot in the District 8 Utah House thanks to the last-minute changes.
And Waldrip said the Weber County Republican Party bylaws will likely face more scrutiny in light of the questions and concerns that emerged leading up to Saturday’s GOP gathering.
“I think the party’s central committee will have to take a very hard look at making the bylaws clearer,” he said.
Before Saturday, the threshold for getting on the ballot as a dual-path hopeful was 70 percent delegate support. Saturday morning, they changed it to 50 percent plus one.
Mark Miller, who narrowly lost his bid for the party’s nomination for the Weber County Commission seat B post, thinks he would have dedicated more time and money to his bid leading up to the convention if only he’d known the rules would change.
Miller lost to Scott Jenkins, now the GOP nominee for the commission seat. Jenkins, who only vied for GOP support via the convention, beat out Miller by a 50.5 percent-49.5 percent margin in delegate voting.
“I could make an argument I was burned, but I’m not going to,” Miller said, noting that he’s still pleased that he competed so closely with Jenkins, a former Utah senator.
Lynda Pipkin, chairwoman of the Weber County Republican Party, didn’t return a call seeking comment.
‘SHOCK TO EVERYBODY’
Weber County’s rules, according to supporters of the dual-path, stemmed from bias among some GOP activists who believe ballot petition candidates might be insufficiently loyal to the party.
Last-second changes to the bylaws ended up being a mixed bag for candidates, depending on the race and the combination of other candidates.
Waldrip — who, like Miller, did not get enough signatures to get on the ballot via petition — ended up garnering just over 70 percent of the delegates’ votes. He’ll be on the June 26 ballot. Second-place finisher Jason Kyle earned enough as a convention-only candidate to secure a place as well.
For the District 7 race, which featured three convention-only hopefuls and one dual-path candidate, the outcome for convention-only candidates was dictated by one of the recently-adjusted bylaws.
Before Saturday’s changes, the rules allowed for advancement of two convention-only candidates. Deuel, garnered just over 42 percent of the vote, and Kyle Andersen had just over 57 percent of the vote. Both Deuel and Andersen, who were convention-only hopefuls, were told they’d both advance.
Shortly thereafter, party officials clarified, saying only Andersen would advance, per the changes adopted Saturday morning.
“That was a shock to everybody,” Deuel said.
He protested on Saturday to officials on the GOP rules committee to no avail. Now he’s mulling a lawsuit to secure a place on the June ballot. He’s contacted state elections officials, Utah Republican Party officials and two lawyers.
The changed rules notwithstanding, Deuel said the GOP officials overseeing the District 7 nominating process didn’t follow proper procedure. They didn’t properly check credentials of the voting delegates, he said, and eliminated two of the four District 7 hopefuls from contention after the first round of voting, not just one, as bylaws dictate.
The GOP and Democratic primaries are on June 26. The general election is Nov. 6.