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Over Chairman’s Objections, Right-Wing GOP Members Target Signature-Gathering Candidates

Julia Ritchey / KUER

The Utah Republican Party passed a new bylaw that would target candidates who gather signatures to get on the primary ballot.

According to the new rule, candidates who try to use the petition route will be kicked out of the party. The change would only apply to candidates in Utah’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts.

While it appears the bylaw would not apply to any GOP candidates who’ve already filed to gather signatures this year, it could affect future candidates.

We don't need more litigation, we need an answer and we'll wait for that. — Rob Anderson

The change was passed by a group of right-wing members over the weekend. A frustrated Utah GOP Chairman Rob Anderson called it an attempt to challenge his leadership and trigger another lawsuit over the Count My Vote compromise.  

“We don’t need more litigation,” Anderson said Monday. “We need an answer and we’ll wait for that.”

The party’s appeal of a court ruling to uphold the law is pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

“Someone has to be the adult in the room,” said Anderson. “It’s time for me to figure out if what they passed was legal and if I can enforce it or not.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s office declined to comment on the change Monday, saying it was reviewing the new rule.

But Republican lawmakers expressed concern for the change.

“We have a law that’s on the books and we should be following it,” said acting Senate Majority Leader Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal.

“The part that really baffles me is that certain people are getting a pass for collecting signatures and others are not,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, referring to the fact that the bylaw would only apply in two of Utah’s four congressional districts. “How do you do that? That’s inconsistent,” he said.

“I don’t see our party’s torn apart. There’s a minority of our party that want this. The majority of the party, I guarantee, don’t want this,” Niederhauser said.  

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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