James Evans

From judicial filibusters to the pseudo-religion of Hillary Clinton to Salt Lake County ethics — there was no shortage of intrigue at the Salt Lake County Republican Convention on Saturday, not the least of which was the election of the county's first-ever black chairman.

Former state Sen. James Evans, seen by many as a bridge-builder who can woo Democratic voters, was elected chairman by a comfortable margin over opposition candidate Patrick Reagan.

And while the county Republicans have a new leader, it was clear he has some work to do to heal what many consider a broken organization. Some, led by Reagan, maintained Evans wasn't the man for the job, saying he is too much of an insider to affect real change.

"If we elect the insider candidate, we'll continue down the same path we're on," Reagan said.

"I'm not in this race to help the already powerful," he added. "We need to cut the waste and corruption in government."

But Evans won out, putting forth a strategic plan based on grassroots mobilization that will focus more on Internet-based methods of keeping delegates in the loop. The effort is designed to get more people interested in the party and eventually win elections, Evans said.

One major convention topic was ethics.

Last year, Republican County Auditor Craig Sorensen was sentenced for stealing money from taxpayers; former GOP County Mayor Nancy Workman was charged — and later acquitted — for misusing public funds; and Workman's counsel, House Speaker Greg Curtis, was criticized for double-dipping from his state and county jobs.

The scandals and criticism led to Democrats taking over the county mayor's office and gaining one more seat on the county council.

County delegates narrowly passed a measure stating in part that "a principle of this party shall be ethical behavior."

While many were preaching party unity, there are still signs county Republicans are a divided bunch. A resolution commending the county party's central and executive committees failed after several speakers criticized the executive chairwoman Tiani Coleman, who did not seek re-election.

Also, executive committee member Dave Argyle resigned this week after criticizing the party's dismissal of Daren Jensen as a candidate for vice chairman because he wasn't a member of the party.

At the national level, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Senate Republicans will move forward on a measure to end Democratic filibusters on President Bush's judicial nominees.

"The fact of the matter is we're going to have to do that," Hatch said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said Republicans should be worried about Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and her apparent bid for the White House in 2008. Clinton, Cannon said, is changing her congressional voting pattern to appear more moderate and feigning religious piety to woo voters.

"May I suggest we have our work cut out for us" in defeating Clinton, Cannon said.

"Have you all noticed that Hillary Clinton is going back to church and carrying a bible again?" he added.

Feigning religion "is sort of hard to pull off for a non-believing person, but Hillary is quite good at it," he said.

• In Davis County, party chairman Todd Weiler and vice chairman Tom Allgood both retained their seats at the Davis County Republican Convention.

Weiler said he plans to be aggressive in leading the county party over the next two years.

"The Democrats are reorganizing and regrouping and they are becoming stronger," he said. "As a party, we need to keep on our toes."

The county party also passed a resolution recognizing Davis County educators for their hard work in the past year.

Contributing: Nicole Warburton

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com