Utah Republicans consider withholding party support for signature-gathering candidates

Apr 17, 2023, 3:30 PM | Updated: 3:40 pm

people vote at the Republican national convention...

FILE - Dennis Petersen (left) and Bruce Hough cast their votes during the first round of voting at the 2011 Republican State Convention Saturday, June 18, 2011 at South Towne Exposition Center. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — At this Saturday’s Republican State Convention, state delegates will vote on a resolution to only support candidates who get on the ballot via the caucus convention system.

Utah law, known as the S.B. 54 compromise of 2014, allows for a dual path to the primary election ballot. Candidates can also gather the required amount of signatures.

A resolution on the topic was run last year. This one would similarly push lawmakers to “restore the party’s authority to choose its nominees as it sees fit,” in 2024.

While the resolution itself doesn’t have many teeth, it could lead to the party’s State Central Committee voting to further strip party support from candidates who choose to get on the primary ballot via signature gathering. It’s not clear yet if that will happen. 

The resolution is being added to Saturday’s agenda after party chairman Carson Jorgensen said it was accidentally left off in an email sent to delegates last week. 

Party chair frustrated

Jorgensen said he supports the caucus convention path to the ballot over signature gathering but is frustrated by the resolution — which is brought forward by Weber County Central Committee Member, Paul Mackley along with several co-sponsors.  Jorgensen called the move “the definition of insanity.”

“What I’m frustrated about is that we keep continuing to do the same thing over, and over, and over again and expecting different results,” he told KSL NewsRadio. 

He also said the party’s bylaws already withhold support from primary candidates who don’t earn at least 60% at the state nominating convention. That change happened in 2019.

“I’m not 100% sure what this is trying to accomplish…I feel like this has already been dealt with on this level,” Jorgensen said.  

Party support

Party support typically includes a candidate being able to take advantage of the party’s non-profit mailing status. That’s important for smaller campaigns that don’t have a lot of money to get their name out. They’d also have access to data through their own voters lists, and the Republicans National Committee, RNC. The party also has a few exclusive apps, as well as access to county party data and precinct information.

In order for this resolution to become binding, the State Central Committee would have to vote to make it — or something similar —  a party bylaw. That would typically happen at a separate meeting.

When asked whether this resolution could lead to support being withheld from signature-gathering candidates in the general election, Jorgensen said he “wouldn’t think so.”

“I don’t ever foresee that extending itself beyond [the primary], and honestly we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we did that.”

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Utah Republicans consider withholding party support for signature-gathering candidates