This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When a Salt Lake City attorney praised GOP gubernatorial challenger Jonathan Johnson on a popular outdoors internet site, his partners received what they perceived as a threat from a member of Gov. Gary Herbert's Cabinet.

Jason Hawkins, an outdoors enthusiast, posts comments regularly on hunting and fishing websites and has been critical of wildlife management under the Herbert administration.

He recently posted comments on, noting that he was with a group of outdoors types who met with Johnson. They were impressed with the candidate's ideas about wildlife oversight. Two of Hawkins' partners then received an email from Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler expressing concern about Hawkins' criticisms of the Division of Wildlife Resources and asking if his comments reflected the views of the firm.

Styler not only oversees the DWR, but he also has responsibility over the Division of Water Resources. The two partners he directed the email to are water-rights attorneys and regularly appear before the state engineer on behalf of their clients.

One of the partners, Shawn Draney, wrote back to Styler that the email questioning the firm's positions on the Herbert administration put him in a moral dilemma.

"I could risk upsetting you by not attempting to help a government official chill Jason's First Amendment rights, and risk all that might carry with it. Or I could be complicit with a violation of a constitutional right," Draney wrote to Styler. "I could not bring myself to the second course of action."

Styler wrote back and apologized.

"I never intended to chill anyone's First Amendment rights," Styler told Draney. "I simply asked if your associate was speaking for himself or for the firm. I should have not even asked that question."

He added that he was disappointed his email was subsequently posted on several internet forums. "I guess I had expected some confidentiality. I regret this whole incident and I am sorry."

Styler told me the email was sent in frustration over criticisms of the DWR, and he sent it without thinking it through.

"My rule of thumb is that when I write an email out of frustration, I wait until then next day before I send it. By then, I usually look at the email again and delete it without sending it. I didn't do that this time, and I should have."

Qualifier gets unqualified • The Utah Republican Party and GOP leaders of several counties have struggled in dealing with the Legislature's Count My Vote compromise that allows alternate paths to the primary ballot.

The state party sued the state in an unsuccessful bid to get the law overturned. Several county parties have violated their bylaws by endorsing candidates elected by delegates at their conventions over Republicans who accessed the ballot through signature gathering.

Davis County Republicans changed their rules that unwittingly ended up undermining the caucus-convention system the party establishment holds so dear.

In the County Commission race, political newcomer Randy Elliott chose to bypass the county convention and get on the ballot through signature gathering.

Party officials changed the rule that previously would put the top two convention vote-getters on the ballot if no one received 60 percent of the delegate vote. The new rule allows only the top candidate at the convention to go to the primary against the signature gatherer so there would not be more than two candidates in the primary.

Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt was the leader in the convention, but he racked up only 52 percent of the delegate vote.

The second-place finisher in the convention was Bruce Young and normally would have qualified for Tuesday's primary election. But because of the rule change, he was forced out.

Battle of the robocalls • Voters in Provo's Senate District 16 got extra special attention Monday, the eve of the primary. First, they received a robocall from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz endorsing Chris Herrod, who was Utah chairman of Cruz's failed presidential campaign. Then they got a robocall from former Gov. Mike Leavitt endorsing incumbent Curt Bramble, who sponsored the Count My Vote compromise.

No room at the inn • Jonathan Johnson, the GOP gubernatorial challenger, sent a group of supporters with campaign signs to the University Mall in Orem for a honk-and-wave event Tuesday morning, only to find Gov. Gary Herbert's crowd had already occupied all four corners of the mall. So the Johnson folks packed up and left.

Perhaps it was payback for the state Republican convention, when Herbert loyalist couldn't get into a trailer that contained all of his campaign signs the morning of the gathering because someone had super-glued the locks.