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Rolly: From RINOs to the ghosts of Founding Fathers, the special convention to replace Chaffetz will have it all

Published June 1, 2017 11:01 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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

When the 3rd Congressional District's Republican delegates meet at a special convention June 17 to vote on a replacement for retiring U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, there will be a smorgasbord of personalities from which to choose.

From alleged liberals, to RINOs (Republicans in name only), to purists to reincarnations of a Founding Father, they will all be competing for the hearts and minds of true Republicans.

One candidate who will not be vying at the convention but still is given a shot at the nomination is Tanner Ainge. He will try to get to the primary ballot through the signature-gathering route, a hated strategy in the minds of many of the GOP purists who believe going around the delegates is blasphemy.

But his name is Ainge, which is golden to many of the folks who will be at that convention because of the BYU basketball exploits of his famous father, Danny.

Republican social media sites already are calling out another candidate gathering signatures, Provo Mayor John Curtis, who also will compete for delegate votes at the convention.

His Republican purity is being challenged by some because one of his most emphatic supporters in the signature-gathering movement is a woman named Zina Bennion, who is a leader in the 3rd Congressional District Indivisible organization that sprouted in opposition to the presidential election of Donald Trump.

She was one of the organizers of the protests at a town hall meeting earlier this year for Chaffetz, which became quite raucous. Some believe that experience may be one of the reasons Chaffetz decided to resign from his seat before completing his term, although he has repeatedly denied that.

Curtis also might be seen as using a home court advantage.

Last week, he held his Mayor's Prayer Breakfast at the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni Center at BYU. At the event, John Curtis candidate nomination petitions were handed out.

Then there are conservative firebrands Chris Herrod and Margaret Dayton. Herrod used to be in the state House of Representatives, and Dayton is still a state senator.

They may be foes at the convention this year, but they are compadres.

Both were members of the Patrick Henry Caucus, the political cult formed by legislators who believed the already existing Conservative Caucus in the Utah House was, well, not conservative enough.

You might remember the silly promotional film they made, featuring five legislators — Herrod, Keith Grover, Ken Sumsion, Stephen Sandstrom, and Carl Wimmer — parading around the state Capitol like the Magnificent Seven to superhero music.

It was a hoot.

But they were actually serious.

Dayton wasn't part of the superhero routine in the video, but she got to make a cameo appearance in which she shouted from the Capitol Rotunda, "I am Patrick Henry," suggesting that the founder famous for the phrase "Give me liberty or give me death" would occasionally appear in drag.

Another potential drama that could play out at the convention involves the Dayton campaign and another Republican hopeful for the seat, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.

Dayton has hired to help on her campaign the political consulting firm G1 Consulting, headed by Greg Powers.

His brother, who works with him on his company's projects — though he says he is not working on Dayton's campaign — is Jason Powers, who has been in the center of several controversial campaigns — including the one that successfully slimed none other than Daw.

Daw was the incumbent running against challenger Dana Layton a few years ago when his district was inundated with flyers suggesting he was a closet liberal and sided with President Barack Obama on health care. The flyers came from a PAC whose contributors were unknown. It turned out the PAC was run by Jason Powers and was funded mostly by the payday lender industry, which Powers had ties to through his campaign work for John Swallow. That industry hated Daw because he was a champion for payday lending reform.

He lost to Layton that year, but when all the payday lending meddling came out later, he beat Layton in the next election to reclaim his seat.

One last thing about the previously mentioned candidates Herrod and Curtis. When former Rep. Jeff Alexander of Provo resigned in 2006, the delegates in his district met to elect a replacement. Herrod and Curtis were both candidates in that special election, and Curtis came out on top by one vote.

But the decision still was up to the party leaders, and because Curtis had actually run in a previous race as a Democrat, Herrod was chosen to replace Alexander.

So, there are all sorts ghosts of elections past swirling around this convention.

It should be fun.

prolly@sltrib.com —






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