SALT LAKE CITY — The conservative Patrick Henry Caucus intends to meet soon to map out its future — without one of its founding members.
Former state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom has become persona non grata among his fellow states rights advocates, particularly his one-time close legislative colleague Carl Wimmer.
"I've been told none of them want me there anyway, so I'm fine with that," the Orem Republican said.
"I'm officially not within the family circle," Sandstrom said Monday. "I didn't think it would hinge on standing up and supporting someone."
That someone would be Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who won the nomination in Utah's new 4th Congressional District at the state GOP convention last month. Love bested Sandstrom and Wimmer, both of whom helped found the Patrick Henry Caucus in 2009. The group, which garnered nation attention thanks to Glenn Beck, champions legislation to assert state sovereignty, including the current effort to wrest public lands from federal control.
Depending on how the November election turns out, Wimmer and Sandstrom could be 4th District rivals once again. Both said they might run again in 2014 if Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson defeats Love.
Whether they would go into that race as friends again remains to be seen.
Wimmer, a Herriman Republican who resigned his House seat to run for Congress, said he and Sandstrom agreed to endorse the other should convention delegates knock one of them out of the race. Only Wimmer and Love survived the first round of balloting. When it came time to throw his support behind a candidate, Sandstrom chose Love.
Love came close to winning the 60 percent needed to become the outright nominee on the first vote. Sandstrom said the party's best chance to beat Jim Matheson was to unite behind one candidate and avoid an expensive primary election. Love won 70 percent on the second ballot.
"Ultimately, it was just Mia's time," Sandstrom said.
Sandstrom's decision angered Wimmer. Though he put on a good face at the convention — even joining hands with Love on stage after she won — he sent a scathing personal email to Sandstrom several days later.
Wimmer told his fellow Patrick Henry brother in the missive that he felt betrayed and no longer considered him a friend.
"Integrity and loyalty are very important to me," he said. "If you commit to something, I believe your word should be your bond."
Sandstrom said he and Wimmer never had a deal.
"I don't feel badly about what I did because it was the right thing to do," he said. "I think it's unfortunate that Carl feels the way he feels."
The two have not spoken since the convention.
And when some members of the Patrick Henry Caucus meet this week to map out its future, Sandstrom won't be there. Wimmer said the group wants to discuss where it's going nationally, including getting involved in political races outside Utah. The caucus already has chapters in several states.
Former state Rep. Ken Sumsion, another Patrick Henry founder, said he'd like Sandstrom to be part of the group going forward, "but I don't know if that's possible." He said that's up to Sandstrom and Wimmer.
Wimmer fully expected to at least advance to a primary election in a congressional district that some say his legislative colleagues drew just for him. Some even referred to it as the "Wimmer District."
The same thing was said of the new 2nd District boundaries where former Utah House Speaker Dave Clark resides. Clark, too, lost at the state GOP convention.
Sumsion, who headed the redistricting committee, says that was "absolutely not" the case for either district.
But Sandstrom isn't so sure. The lines might have been drawn with Wimmer in mind, he said. "I think there were some politics involved there."
Before state lawmakers set the congressional boundaries last fall, Sandstrom planned to run in the 3rd District — his home district — because Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, hinted at a run for U.S. Senate, which would have opened that seat. When Chaffetz didn't go that direction, Sandstrom had to decide between the 2nd and 4th districts.
Sandstrom initially filed in the 2nd District but changed his mind because he didn't want to move to Salt Lake County. His switch to the 4th District, and moving his home from Orem to Saratoga Springs (where Love is now his mayor), also upset Wimmer.
Wimmer said Sandstrom told him he was running in the 3rd District. Sandstrom said that's because Chaffetz told him he was running for Senate.
And so it goes.
And it could come around again in two years if Matheson wins the election. Neither Wimmer nor Sandstrom say they're done with politics.
Sandstrom said there's a "distinct possibility" he would run if the 4th District if Matheson is there. Said Wimmer, "If (Love) doesn't win, I'll be waiting in the wings."
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