The dust has settled in an internal flap over whether GOP state chairman Richard Senlgrove will resign early from his two-year term. He won't.
But only time will tell whether Utah's elected Republican leaders got the message sent by the Republican Central Committee - don't try to bully your chairman candidate into office."Two messages were sent (to GOP leaders like Gov. Norm Bangerter and U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen) by the central committee in a vote taken last week," said Snelgrove on Tuesday. "I have their (the central committee's) full support and the regular elected process shouldn't be subverted." The executive committee of the Elephant Club, the group of big-money contributors to the GOP, also voted to support Snelgrove.
Historically, the major officeholder who faces re-election in the next cycle has had significant influence over who the state party chairman will be. House Speaker Craig Moody, R-Sandy, remembers being called into Bangerter's office and being personally asked to run for chairman in 1985. Moody served two terms as chairman, 1985-1989.
Bangerter isn't running for re-election in 1992, he's already announced. But Hansen is probably running for something, either re-election to his U.S. House seat, the governorship or the U.S. Senate. Assuming Garn doesn't seek re-election to the Senate, Hansen is the top incumbent running in 1992.
Snelgrove said two weeks ago that Hansen led the charge in suggesting that he resign early so a hand-picked successor could be chosen by the leaders. That successor would "definitely have a leg up - he'd be the incumbent - in seeking his own term as chairman in the June convention," Snelgrove said.
But Snelgrove balked. "It's inappropriate," he said.
Hansen says he didn't push a successor, didn't argue that Snelgrove leave early. The person mentioned as the Hansen-backed candidate, Don Leonard of Bonneville Associates, says he's not even sure he'll seek the chairmanship.
"The word `subvert' is inaccurate," says Leonard. "I was asked by Governor Bangerter, Senators Garn and Hatch and Representative Hansen to consider assuming the chairmanship should Mr. Snelgrove decide to leave early. That would allow the new chairman to get an early start on solving some of the party problems that have lingered for years."
Leonard was an aide to Hansen eight years ago. "Jim actually put less pressure on me to take over than the others did. It was very unfair to accuse him of trying to put his friend in."
This all took place in a meeting between Snelgrove, Bangerter, Hansen and others several months ago. "An item on the agenda was how to position their hand-picked choice (for victory in the convention)," said Snelgrove.
Snelgrove said it's completely appropriate for Hansen, Bangerter or anyone else to support a chairman candidate. "But the way to do that is to speak for your candidate at the convention, organize for him, campaign for him among the delegates. Not try to do it behind closed doors. That rubbed the central committee the wrong way."
Those who are now mentioned as chairmanship candidates, according to Snelgrove, include businessman Chris Cannon; Robert Montgomery, a retired Ogden physician; Mark Taylor, the Davis County GOP chairman and a local attorney; and Robert Holmes, a Salt Lake real estate developer. The state GOP organizing convention will be held June 22 in Highland High School.