SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Hebert said he was "dismayed" by a sudden bylaw change made by a small group of GOP officials last Saturday that lawmakers say they now want to fix with a legislative measure.
The change, he added, was in "bad form."
"The rules should not be changed in the middle of the game," Herbert said during a press availability.
The change made by members of the Utah GOP State Central Committee rejects candidates who choose to collect signatures to get on the 2018 primary election ballot in two of Utah's four congressional districts.
The current congressmen in those districts, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, have not declared their intent to gather signatures — nor has any other Republican running so far in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has said the change leaves every Republican candidate with uncertainty and has implications for other races, including state legislative races or school board contests.
Lawmakers are scrambling to try to counter the move before the end of the session next Thursday. They are proposing that instead of being a "qualified political party," able to advance candidates to a primary through the traditional caucus and convention process, the Utah GOP would become a "registered political party."
That would mean the only way Republican candidates could appear on a ballot is if they gathered voter signatures. Currently, all of the seven political parties recognized in the state have qualified status.
The Utah GOP registered last September as a qualified political party, which requires accepting candidates who gather voter signatures as well as those who compete for party delegate support at convention.
The Utah GOP filed a lawsuit over the controversial law pushed by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, known as SB54, which allows two paths to the ballot — the traditional convention system and gathering signatures.
The party is appealing its loss in a federal court to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.8 comments on this story
Don Guymon, spokesman for the constitutional defense committee of the Utah Republican Party, said the bylaw change was made in accordance with the law and fears about its impacts are unfounded.
"If the Republican Party Executive Committee chooses to enforce this bylaw change, it does not affect any candidate already filed to run, and during the 2018 election cycle, it only applies to U.S. House Districts 1 and 2, so that no already-filed candidate will be impacted," he said in a prepared statement.