Mudslinging was quick and furious Saturday at the American Party State Convention - and at a brief, state-mandated replay of the party's Salt Lake County convention held minutes beforehand.
Action included an hourlong attack by party officials against a candidate they described as disloyal, a cheater and a man who once improperly physically searched children saying he was looking for bombs. But the officials seated him as a state delegate anyway.That gubernatorial candidate, Lawrence Rey Topham, denied the charges against him and countered that party officials were themselves guilty of violating election laws and were trying to get even with him for pointing that out and forcing the party to re-hold its Salt Lake County convention.
The lieutenant governor had ordered the county convention re-held when Topham complained that the party had forced delegates to pay a $5 fee or they were not allowed to vote. The state said that was an illegal poll tax.
So the party re-held a 10-minute county convention Saturday in the South Salt Lake City Hall to choose state convention delegates. As those delegates then registered for the following state convention, they were asked to pay a $10 registration fee for it.
Party officials said the fee was not illegal this time because it was optional and would not affect delegates' ability to vote.
But signs asking for the fee did not say it was optional, and party leaders refused to announce to all delegates that it was optional - even after press inquiries - until all were registered and their money collected.
Many of the delegates questioned by the press said they had thought the fee was mandatory, but some who refused to pay said they were told they could vote anyway.
All that prompted Topham to charge that party officials were trying to deceive delegates into paying the fee, fearing they might not donate otherwise.
But Topham proved to be unpopular among the 54 delegates at the tiny party's convention. He lost his race for the gubernatorial nomination to national Party Chairman Arly Pedersen 42-12, or 78 percent to 22 percent.
Because Pedersen won by more than 70 percent of the vote, state law says he will not have to face a primary election against Topham.
After his win, Pedersen named Robert Crawley as running mate. Crawley is the state coordinator for the conservative John Birch Society.
Also nominated by the convention were an uncontested candidate for U.S. Senate, Robert Smith, and an uncontested candidate for the 3rd District congressional seat, E. Dean Christensen.
The most heated action of the day came when the party's credential committee questioned whether Top-ham should be seated as a state delegate. Topham was elected as a state delegate during the short county convention.
But Credential Committee Chairman Earl Jeppson - who is also the party's nominee for U.S. vice president - questioned whether Topham was a party member in good standing, saying the party was unsure whether he was loyal to it or even really a Utah resident.
Harold Christensen, Salt Lake County secretary for the party, claimed Topham had cheated him out of money in a coin deal. Others claimed that when he was once in charge of security at a national convention, he improperly searched children for bombs.
Topham said the claims were false. Party leaders decided to seat him as a delegate, but Topham said their attacks likely hurt his campaign.
Pedersen, E. Dean Christensen and Smith gave speeches calling for residents to support the Constitution, which they said is being overlooked and destroyed.
Pedersen also said the core of local problems are "the unrighteousness and immorality of the people of Utah. Look at advertising . . . drugs are everywhere . . . people want to promote gambling . . . and there are even moves here in Utah to legalize prostitution."
The party is only organized in eight counties, said State Chairman David Wilson. Pedersen said the small party has members in 33 states, but only five state organizations are currently paying dues to the party.