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"He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power. Which, eventually, of course, he did."

The officials of the Utah Republican Party are so insular, so devoted to seeing to it that a tiny group of activists will forever hold on to their disproportionate share of power, that they won't even listen to the people who, by dint of holding the highest elected offices in the state, should be the real leaders of their party.

In fact, if not in title, Gov. Gary Herbert should be the one who calls the tune for the state's Republicans. The chief executive of any state, or of the nation, is the most visible representation of his or her party and, by both tradition and logic, should be its true leader.

But not around here.

Here, on at least one major issue, Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox are arguably more at odds with Republican Party Chairman James Evans and the party's central committee than they are with the Democrats.

Not that there are that many Democrats hereabouts to fight with. Which is the point, as whoever controls the Republican Party in Utah effectively controls government in Utah.

Herbert the other day reasonably lamented a veto he didn't make. Had he blocked the passage of Senate Bill 54 in 2014, there would have been no compromise with the leaders of the Count My Vote initiative drive. A compromise that Evans has used every trick in the book to block or evade.

Without SB54, the Count My Vote folks would have gone ahead with their petition drive, which stood a very good chance of not only getting onto a statewide ballot, but also being adopted. Then there would have been no doubt that the people wanted the Republicans (and the Democrats) to give up the anti-democratic caucus and convention system that favors extreme true believers and instead follow a model, used in many other states, where real primary elections choose nominees.

SB54 created a two-track system: Get on the primary ballot through the old caucus/convention system, or by gathering signatures on a petition. It was a good deal. But Evans has gone to court once, and may go again, in the rather un-Republican attempt to get a federal court to undo an act of an elected Legislature. A body that his party overwhelmingly controls.

Herbert signed and has backed SB54. Cox is fully prepared to implement it. To the point that he has warned the Republican Party that non-compliance threatens to get the whole party de-certified in the eyes of the state.

The governor and his lieutenant should stand firm. A credible threat to get the whole party thrown off the ballot might be the only thing that will work. And put the focus of real power right where it belongs.