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Is GOP Infighting Sign of a Larger Divide?

Brian Grimmett
File: James Evans explains voting procedures at the 2014 Utah GOP state convention

Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans is accusing Republican State Senator Todd Weiler of encouraging some donors to stop giving money to the party. Weiler denies those allegations, but the incident is a very public representation of a divide that’s growing among members of the Utah GOP over how the party chooses its candidates.

Republican Senator Todd Weiler and Utah GOP Chairman James Evans have very publicly argued on radio shows, Twitter, and most recently at the party’s state convention in August.

“The voters, not the party will decide who is a Republican, and that’s the way it should always be," Weiler said. "I say vote no on this.”

Which led to this response.

“So if you’re ok with anyone wanting to just, take Senator Weiler, just let anyone come and no scrutiny than you don’t have to support this proposal,” Evans said.

The conflict between the two began after the legislature passed SB54, a compromise aimed at keeping the caucus/convention system as the method for electing candidates. It got even worse when Evans and other GOP leaders decided to sue the state over the bill.

Evans says he doesn’t have a problem with criticism, but that Weiler has crossed the line with his public opposition.

“If you’re part of the organization you shouldn’t try to undermine its effectiveness because you disagree on an issue," he says.

But Weiler says he’s just representing his constituents who don’t want to see the party being directed with such a heavy hand.

“Maybe I’m stupid or maybe I’m courageous but I’m not afraid of James," he says. "I’m not afraid of exercising my First Amendment rights. And if the party is going in the wrong direction I’m not afraid to say that.”

Neither would characterize their disagreement as a feud, but they won’t be changing their views on what’s best for the party any time soon either. 

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