Rolly: Fun and games in Utah County By Paul Rolly
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune Updated:04/17/2009 07:09:12 PM MDT
The Utah County Republican Party for years has been an interesting animal to observe, with accusations of sophomoric shenanigans and clannish behavior.
Utah County's annual Lincoln Day dinner fundraiser often featured a straw vote among attendees for the Republican candidates running for office that particular year. In order to vote, you had to purchase a dinner, so it was a clever way to sell a lot of tables to the campaigns feeling like they needed votes for a good showing.
Then there was the party float incident in which then-Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Orem, and then-Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, persuaded the president of a state-run trade school, who was asking the Legislature for increased funding, to use school funds and resources to build a chassis for the Utah County Republican float.
And there was the formation of the Utah County Legislative PAC, a fundraising arm of the party that was separate from the official Utah County Republican Party with Valentine and Bramble in control, allowing them to determine which candidates got money from the PAC. Bramble also had at least one family member paid to do work for the PAC.
A few months ago, a candidate for president of Utah Valley University was told that in order to help himself become a finalist for the job, he had to apologize to the Utah County legislators because his wife had run for the Legislature as a Democrat and had made legislative ethics an issue.
Now, it's time for the party to elect new officers and Republican Central Committee members, and old suspicions are rising up between the so-called clique and those who have had the audacity to challenge that clique's power.
Lisa Shepherd got sideways with the insiders last year when she challenged incumbent Rep. Keith Grover of Provo for the Republican nomination. She heard from party and legislative leaders, including Bramble, and was discouraged from running.
Things seemed to have calmed after that intra-party struggle, which she lost, until now, when she is running for county party secretary to replace Bramble's wife, Susan, who is stepping down. The Brambles showed up at a recent meet-the-candidates meeting and Curt began leading the discussion, pointedly asking Shepherd questions about the propriety of a party official -- Shepherd is a legislative district chair -- running for public office.
Later, in private conversations, Bramble brought up concerns about Shepherd's daughter being appointed a precinct vice-chair, when there was an opening, and therefore becoming an automatic delegate.
The questions were curious since the Brambles showed no concern when the daughter of GOP State Chairman Stan Lockhart and his wife, Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was allowed to run and be elected as a delegate in a precinct she had not yet moved into.
In another Utah County precinct, Hannah DeForest, the vice-chair, had learned she was the automatic head of the precinct when the chair moved, so she appointed a new vice-chair and delegate. Later, she was informed by party brass that she was not the chair and a different person had been appointed to fill that opening. Her sin? She had refused to support the candidacy of an incumbent legislator the year before.
Jacqueline deGaston became a controversial figure in Utah County when she challenged Bramble in the Republican convention last year. She reported favoritism toward the Brambleites and all sorts of manipulation to prevent her supporters from becoming delegates.
She lost at the convention and perhaps was reminded of her insubordination this year when she filed by e-mail to run for one of the Utah County slots on the Republican State Central Committee.
Even though she filed on time, her name was not included in the candidate list submitted to the delegates attending Saturday's convention. After a number of people questioned that omission, her name finally was included.
But she got the message.