Rob Anderson, chairman of the embattled Utah Republican Party, said Wednesday he will not seek a second two-year term, opting instead to step aside this spring in order to let someone else take over.
“My decision to not run was probably as much of exhaustion, if not a desire to let somebody else with a fresh take on things try to do what I was unable to do: unify the party,” Anderson said in an interview.
Since 2014, the state GOP has been embroiled in infighting over a state election law known as S.B. 54. The law allows candidates to get on a primary ballot by gathering signatures, attending a political party’s nominating convention or both.
The party had challenged S.B. 54 all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month the court decided not to hear the case, meaning the law stands.
Anderson said even after the issue was resolved legally, it quickly became clear to him that internal disagreements over the law would continue.
“Clearly, my calls for unity that I’ve sent out since the decision on March 4 are falling on deaf ears,” he said. “I think the fight is still continuing.”
Republican delegates will choose a new chair during their organizing convention on May 4.
Phill Wright, who led intra-party challenges against S.B. 54 and against Anderson, announced on Facebook Wednesday afternoon that he plans to run for the Republican chairmanship.
Wright said he wants to “regroup the Party and refocus on educating and promoting our platform to bring more people in and to elect more Republican candidates.”
The Utah GOP was saddled with debt over the draw-out legal fight when Anderson first took over in 2017. The retired Air Force pilot said he’s mostly dug the party out – with just under $100,000 in debt remaining – and hopes to have the party solvent when he leaves his post.
One of the biggest challenges the next party leader faces is to get more people involved in politics, Anderson said.
“How do you get more people involved in politics in a non-confrontational way to strengthen the discourse in Utah? I think if you can do that, we’re going to win more and more elections,” he said.