This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There seems to be a link between the most impassioned protectors of Utah's caucus/convention candidate nominating system, anti-public education zealots and self-described constitutional patriots.
Moving seamlessly through these movements is a group of tea party wannabes who for years have tried desperately to be relevant in Republican Party politics, but can't quite get there.
Republican legislative candidates received emails recently calling on them to sign a pledge that they would vote to repeal the controversial SB54 the compromise bill that provides alternate paths to the primary ballot, through the delegate vote at convention, signature gathering, or both.
The email was sent by Martha Bybee, a supporter of Jonathan Johnson, who is challenging Gov. Gary Herbert in the GOP primary and has criticized Herbert for gathering signatures to get his name on the primary ballot. Johnson is among the Republican contingent that claims signature gathering, while legal under the current law, undermines the party's right to control how it chooses its nominees.
Bybee, who urged the candidates to send pictures of themselves signing the pledge so it can be posted on social media, said she was working on behalf of the group Keep Our Caucus.
Keep Our Caucus has been highly touted in social media by Brandon Beckham, who has maneuvered in Republican circles in Utah County for years, serving as a delegate but not finding success in attempts to run for party office positions.
Beckham has long ties to former State Rep. Chris Herrod who, after serving for a time in the State House of Representatives, has found climbing the ladder in the GOP a difficult task.
Herrod left the Legislature in 2012 to run for the U.S. Senate and was clubbed in the GOP convention.
He's now trying to get back into public office by challenging longtime Sen. Curt Bramble, the current president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and a co-author of SB54.
The pledge being sent to candidates, along with the request for pictures, is seen by several incumbent legislators I've talked to as an intimidation tactic and many of those incumbents plan to ignore it.
But you can bet the pledge will be used against Bramble in his primary race with Herrod, since Bramble gathered signatures to get on the ballot even though he also qualified through the convention process, beating Herrod 55-45 percent among the delegates not enough to eliminate Herrod in the convention.
Herrod was one of five Republican legislators who founded the Patrick Henry Caucus in 2009, a group claiming to be the protectors of liberty and basic conservative principles whose image grew increasingly silly over time.
They released a promotional video about themselves, produced by Beckham, that was highly ridiculed. With majestic music in the background, it showed the five legislators strutting together in the Capitol, sort of like a scene from the "Magnificent Seven."
Another shot had them standing in a semi-circle, one-by-one sharply turning their heads toward the camera as if to introduce themselves, ala the Mickey Mouse Club.
Earlier, after they had been first elected to the Legislature, they touted themselves in a flier as the "Fab Five."
That, too, was mocked.
Herrod, as I mentioned, lost badly in the convention. Other caucus founders Steve Sandstrom and Carl Wimmer ran for the 4th Congressional District and were eliminated at the convention by eventual nominee Mia Love. Ken Sumsion ran for governor and lost in the convention.
Another Patrick Henry Caucus member, Craig Frank, challenged then incumbent state Sen. John Valentine, but was eliminated in the convention. Frank now is the Utah County Republican chairman and is working against Republican candidates who did not stick purely to the caucus/convention system to be nominated.
It will be interesting to see how many candidates sign the pledge and whether it makes any difference in how successful they are when facing a larger Republican base of voters than the cadres of purists who meet in their living rooms and decide for everyone else what it means to be a real Republican.