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Rolly: Republican purists take it on the chin in Utah County GOP slugfest

Published May 2, 2017 8:17 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A funny thing happened at Saturday's Utah County Republican Convention.

The strike force lost.

The protectors of purity, the defenders of truth, justice and the Republican way, the only true GOP believers, well, they got scrubbed by a group best described — in Harry Potter terms — as Muggles.

The glorious leader, County GOP Chairman Craig Frank, was badly beaten, finishing third with 27 percent of the delegate vote.

Most of his team members also lost — from party Secretary Kristen Chevrier to the Frank-backed Central Committee contenders.

The ousted old guard had declared war on Republicans who support a broader electoral base for choosing nominees.

Under Frank's stern leadership, GOP candidates for public office were required to fill out forms and meet with a Star Chamber-type committee to determine their fitness to run as Republicans.

If they refused, the party threatened to withhold delegate lists from them and not recognize them as real Republicans.

The defining issue was whether the candidates were willing to heed the party's position of supporting only those who went through the traditional caucus-convention nominating system and shunning the petition path to the primary ballot.

Hard-liners even put forth a resolution at Saturday's convention to define what it means to be a Republican, namely that one could not support the signature route.

Alas, that resolution went down as decisively as Frank and his supporters did.

Instead, Rob Craig emerged as county GOP chairman. Craig, who had been the party's treasurer, previously had been ordered by the party brass to cut a check for $5,000 to a group called Grassroots Republic to continue the lawsuit against the state law allowing for the petition track.

But that check, the reasons for it and the recipients of it, remain shrouded in mystery.

Craig told me he was not authorized to say who got the check, which was ordered by the county party's exclusive executive and steering committees.

The Utah Republican Party Central Committee had voted to discontinue the lawsuit after losing at lower court levels. But it voted a second time to continue the battle in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as long as it did not spend any more state party money and authorized paying attorney expenses through donations.

The Utah County party's largess apparently is considered a donation.

But there's an enigma wrapped inside that mystery. Marcus Mumford, the Republican Party's attorney of record in the lawsuit, has not received any of that money.

One lawyer involved in the funding is Morgan Philpot, although he said he is not one of the founders of Grassroots Republic, just an adviser at this point, and those caucus-convention enthusiasts running the group probably would consider where the money has gone as none of the general public's business

Philpot, who had volunteered to help in the lawsuit, said if he did get involved, he would have to weigh any expenses he would incur.

With the new party leadership in Utah County, some Republicans are calling for that money to be returned to the party. But Craig said he couldn't talk about that either.

Meanwhile, Philpot is busy with another pursuit of liberty.

Fresh off his victory in the acquittal of Ammon Bundy and others in the siege at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, Philpot is now defending the Bundy family against charges stemming from their armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada a few years ago.

A website, bundydefense.com, urges patriots to "Stand Up for Freedom" and contribute to the legal fund. The site, which notes that Philpot is on the case and "needs your support to maximize his strategic and aggressive defense," accepts most credit cards.







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