Political Leadership Takes Guts and a Little Bit of Cat-herding

Political Leadership Takes Guts and a Little Bit of Cat-herding

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott titled his autobiography “Herding Cats.”  Politics really is about herding cats and keeping them in line.

Sometimes it takes all of the cats in the litterbox playing together to make things work.


The Utah Republican Party is in crisis. 


Many of us, yours truly included, care about the future of the Republican Party and want to see it viable.

I remember falling in love with politics as a 7 year old watching the inauguration of President George H W Bush.  My younger brother and I reenacted the inauguration with our HotWheels.  I was hooked.  I went door-to-door for candidates in my early teenage years in Sandy, Utah. The first time I was a delegate was in 2000.

In 2014 there was a citizen initiative movement to do away with the caucus-conventions system and replace it with open primaries.  I did not support passage of SB54 and was pleased to see that both of my elected members of the Legislature voted and spoke against this bill.  This legislation has created massive infighting that has been referred to as a Civil War.


Each time I have felt like the situation and infighting within the Republican Party was over it begins again.

Utah Policy has the latest article where Chairman James Evans is saying that elected officials are “dishonest.” Senator Todd Weiler (Republican) says the belief that the Republican Party is looking at taking punative actions and remove Republicans from the membership is a “fair interpretation.”

Where this gets really tricky is that under SB54 the Republican Party is a Qualified Political Party (QPP) which can have two options to the ballot for candidates: caucus/convention and a signature petition campaign.  The other option was to become a Registered Political Party (RPP) which only has the signature petition campaign.


Easy to understand?


The Republican Party had two choices and willingly became a QPP.  (The Republican Party did sue the state to close the primaries and this has resulted in that the only people who can sign a petition are Republican members of that district.)

The biggest fear is that actions to remove members from the Republican Party and try to only allow candidates with 40 percent at convention on the primary ballot is not in line with my reading of SB54. (Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer, but have the same recognition from the State Bar of Utah as the general counsel for the Republican Party. Yeah, you read that right – the attorney for the Republican Party is not licensed to practice law in Utah.)  By adding this requirement the Party would not be in compliance and would either be an RPP or cease to be a Party.  This would hurt any candidate that has ruled out gathering signatures as the caucus/convention system and results would not be recognized.  (To date the only candidate who has stated that they are not gathering signatures is Jonathan Johnson who is running for Governor).

Now the latest is that the general counsel for the Republican Party (read above for his qualifications) is recommending that Chairman Evans not identify who can participate in the primary until March 1 – the latest date allowable by law.  Why on earth would he want to do this? The only rationale, verified by sources, is to “stick it in the eye” of any signature gatherer.  The county clerks still need to verify the signatures.

Let’s look closer at the March 1st date that has existed in state law for years.  The purpose of this date it to tell the Elections Office which party or parties can vote in the primary. So, for the Republican Party there are a few options:

  1. A closed primary with only registered Republicans (this is what the lawsuit about SB54 answered and maintains the status quo).
  2. An open primary where any registered voter can participate.
  3. A primary where only a Republican and one or more parties can participate.  (hypothetically all Republicans and Green party members could vote).
  4. Another combination of parties in the state.

So if the Republican Party were to change their decision on March 1st from option 1 above (the status quo) to any other option they would ironically be allowing more people to sign petitions for candidates than currently allowed.

Another rationale is that the Republican State Central Committee is meeting in early February and may adjust bylaws to change requirements in being a member of the Republican Party.  Many members of this body are stating on social media accounts that they want to remove any candidate gathering signatures and any signer of a petition from the rolls of the Party.  I registered to vote on my 18th birthday and signed up as a Republican.  I have donated hours and money to Republican candidates and causes since then.  I signed an official state document verifying my membership of the Republican Party.  Can that government record be modified without my permission?

State statute states that the VOTER determines party affiliation, not the party.  The voter is the only one who can change the  affiliation.  Seems fairly clear, right? The voter chooses the party and taxpayers manage the voter database that is used for elections.  If you really want some reading to put you to sleep you can see part of the state code below:

20A-9-805.  Closed primary — Determining party affiliation — Changing party affiliation.

(2)       (a)        For each person who registers to vote on or after May 3, 1999, the county clerk shall:

(i)         record the party affiliation designated by the voter on the voter registration form as the voter’s party affiliation; or

(ii)        if no political party affiliation is designated by the voter on the voter registration form, record the voter’s party affiliation as “unaffiliated.”

(b)        Any registered voter may designate or change the voter’s political party affiliation by complying with the procedures and requirements of Section 20A-2-107 or Section 20A-9-808.


By statute the Lieutenant Governor is the chief elections officer for the state.  He, and only he, have that role.  No private individual has the legal authority to interpret election code.


So where does the Republican Party go from here?

There is a serious vacuum of leadership from within the Party.  The cats need to be herded.

Someone needs to step forward and ensure the future of the Republican Party.  This person should do all they can to preserve the QPP status of the Party; with no actions harming voters right to choose their representative (either route to the ballot is recognized so long as this remains the law).  This person should repair the relationship with voters, donors, and elected officials who are members of the Republican Party.

Wouldn’t this person be remembered as the person who saved the party from destruction?

There is a group of people who can do this.  I beg and plead with the delegates, leadership, and members of the Republican Party to repair the Republican brand and try to get more people in the party.

Voters are counting on you.

About author

Richard Jaussi
Richard Jaussi 31 posts

Richard is a political junkie. He teaches Political Science and US Constitution courses at a University. Richard can be found reading books on American history and politics. He resides in Utah County with his wife, 4 kids, and Frodo (their dog). You can reach him at fortyfivepolitics@gmail.com.

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