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More Women Leaders In Utah's GOP? Here's How It's Playing Out At The County Level

An illustration of a woman behind a podium with hands holding microphones all around her.
Last weekend, five women were elected chairs of their county Republican parties. In Salt Lake County, though, another man took up the seat, even after complaints about former party officials bullying women. The new chair said he’s working on involving more women in the party.

Several county Republican parties in Utah have new leaders after their elections last weekend. Five women were chosen to chair their parties — but not in Salt Lake County.

After news broke about bullying toward women in the Salt Lake County GOP — which was followed by the former chair’s resignation — some Utah Republicans called for more women in party leadership positions.

Chris Null was elected as the new Salt Lake County chairman. He acknowledged he’s probably not what people expected.

“I am a white man, and you might look at me and say, ‘Well, how is he going to make a difference?’” Null said.

Null ran against a woman and won with around 60% of the vote.

Now, he said he’s looking to bring different voices to the table.

“Some of the things that we've missed out on as a party is engaging with some of the minority groups and women's groups,” he said. “I've got a number of groups that I'm communicating with right now that are really excited. I'm trying to help them figure out how to become delegates and how to participate.”

Meanwhile in Southern Utah, Lesa Sandberg was elected as chairperson of the Washington County GOP. She said she’s excited to be the first woman to hold the title.

“I find that a really high honor,” Sandberg said. “But I don't put any more stock in being a woman and serving in this position than a good man serving in this position.”

She’s been active in the party for years now. Sandberg said she and other women have traditionally worked behind the scenes.

“It's kind of been that way for a long time,” she said. “And I think that women are finally at a place where they're ready to lead. We’re ready to have our voice heard.”

Unlike Null, Sandberg said it’s not her plan to target specific groups to engage with the party. She said the Republican platform already accepts everyone. All women need to do is jump in.

“I'm sure there are women who believe that there is discrimination and they can't be involved. I'm sorry for those who feel that way for me. I've never felt that way,” she said. “We need to run on our own accolades, not because of our gender. And I would hope that women would just step up and serve.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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