Bob Bernick Jr.: Utah Republicans get ready for changing of guard

Published: Friday, April 17 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

There will be a changing of the guard in internal Utah Republican Party politics this spring.

Gone will be the Lockharts, Brambles and Monnahans from the state and Utah County parties; gone also will be James Evans from Salt Lake County party leadership.

It remains to be seen if these changes will be bad or good things.

For sure, some familiar faces that have run the parties and donated a lot of their own time and efforts will be replaced by other volunteer leaders.

Stan Lockhart, a Micron lobbyist who has been closely involved in GOP politics for years, leaves as state party chairman after just one two-year term. Lockhart is also a former chairman of the Utah County Republican Party.

Also not seeking re-election after years of service is Utah County GOP Chairwoman Marian Monnahan and party Secretary Susan Bramble, wife of state Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo.

Lockart's wife is state Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, current assistant majority whip in the House.

Evans is term-limited out of his Salt Lake County chairmanship after two two-year terms.

The state and Salt Lake and Utah county party leaderships probably all won't be totally new, however.

Todd Weiler seeks re-election as state vice chairman, Rick Votaw wants to be re-elected Utah County GOP vice chairman, as Mark Cluff seeks another term as Salt Lake County GOP vice chairman.

But the top party post of chairman will be new in all three organizations.

In Salt Lake County, which holds its party convention April 25 in the South Towne Center, there are five chairman candidates: Kurtis Constantine, Mark Crockett, Dana Dickson, John Hohlbaugh and Thomas Wright.

In Utah County — the convention is also April 25 — there are two chairman candidates, Taylor Oldroyd and Steven Diamond.

The party candidate filing deadlines have passed for the Salt Lake and Utah county elections, but the state GOP deadline isn't for weeks — the state convention not held until June 13.

Three men have already said they are running for state chairman: Dave Hansen, Tim Bridgewater and Steve Harmsen. They all have extensive histories of work within the GOP.

The state and Salt Lake and Utah county organizations all came under criticism in 2008, accused of playing favorites in intra-party races.

I won't go into all the details of those accusations here, except to say that the general complaint is that party bosses ran insider administrations intent on keeping Republican incumbents in public office to the detriment of GOP challengers. The leaders, not surprisingly, deny those accusations.

It appears that, once again, one of the main complaints against how the state and county Republican parties have been run centers around party operations — like the use of so-called automatic convention delegates and use of party information, like e-mail and telephone records of delegates.

For some time there have been complaints about automatic delegates — the elected GOP officeholders who are appointed delegates to the county and state conventions without having to be elected in the March party neighborhood caucuses (the old mass meetings).

Most of the 2,500 or so delegates to county and state conventions are picked by their Republican neighbors — who attend the mass meetings every even-numbered election year and are voted into each precinct's allotted delegate slots. GOP officeholders don't even have to attend their neighborhood mass meetings to be automatically picked as a convention delegate.

This argument over automatic delegates has gone on for years.

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