SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Republican Party would be wise to drop its lawsuit against the state over the candidate nomination process, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.
But with oral arguments coming later this month in a federal appeals court, the GOP governor said he really doesn't care at this point.
"Let's get it through the courts. Let's see what they say and then react to that," Herbert said at his monthly KUED news conference. "But once we get beyond that, I think Senate Bill 54 ought to stay as the law of the land unless somehow the courts overturn it."
The Utah GOP sued the state over the 2014 law known as SB54, which allows candidates to bypass Utah's traditional caucus and convention system by gathering signatures to get on the primary election ballot. A federal judge upheld the law but the party appealed.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is set to hear the case Sept. 25.
Last Saturday, the Utah Republican Party Central Committee took no action on a resolution to stop the legal fight.
SB54 came about as a compromise between lawmakers and backers of the Count My Vote ballot initiative to abolish the convention nomination process in favor of a direct primary election. Some GOP legislators unhappy with the compromise have made attempts to repeal the law.
Herbert said Thursday he would veto any repeal legislation. He said he believes lawmakers dealt with the issue in good faith and would feel betrayed if the agreement were undone.
As he has said before, the governor told reporters that in hindsight, he would have vetoed SB54 because of the "backbiting and divisiveness" it has caused among Republicans.
Herbert said he was disappointed in the "accusations back and forth that 'I’m more pure than you are' and 'this a bad way to do this,' and 'I don’t have to be obligated to uphold this compromise because I was not a part of it.'"
Herbert said he signed the bill because he thought it was a good compromise.
The ongoing lawsuit is among the reasons the Utah GOP is $450,000 in debt. Herbert said he intends to give the party some of the proceeds from his annual fundraising gala Friday for operational costs.