Scandal and drama deliver surprise at UT GOP convention; election results for 2 parties

Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 96.7 FM . She is also a locally elected county and state delegate for the Washington County Republican Party. The commentary and opinions given in this article are solely hers and not those of St. George News.

Joyce Kuzmanic contributed news elements* to this article, specifically the election results.

*NEWS AND OPINION – The freedom to vote is a very serious business; just ask the thousands of state delegates who traveled to the Sandy in northern Utah, on their own dime, to vote on behalf of their cities and districts.

Sea of Delegates, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo by Kate Dalley, St. George News

Attending the Republican Convention, held at the South Towne Exhibition Center, was an eye-opening experience as I witnessed the art of politics being played out before my eyes. The greetings, the handshakes, the nods of agreement while politicians made their cases, and passionate rhetoric were all present and accounted for. If there had been babies present to kiss, they would have had their fair share of attention. Candidate signs, T-shirts, hats and cardboard cutouts were everywhere.

There were 3,918 delegates there ready to cast their votes. The U.S. Senate race included front-runner candidates, incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, former state Rep. Chris Herrod and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. Each one of the candidates mustered up as much passion as they could for their six-minute speeches, which were timed down to the second.

The delegates each wore a small electronic voting device to make the process quick and seamless. Utah State Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright had his hands full as the master of ceremonies for the 13-hour event as the delegates narrowed down the field of candidates to just one or two per race.  Primary elections take place two months from now between the top two candidates of a race if a single candidate did not gather at least 60 percent of the vote.

U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Liljenquist campaigning pre-convention, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo by Kate Dalley, St. George News

The first drama emerged in the U.S. Senate race. Liljenquist forced Hatch into a first-ever primary election when Liljenquist gained 40.81 percent of the delegate vote and Hatch 59.1 percent, just 32 votes shy of a 60 percent shoo-in. This was a huge upset to the 36-year career of this veteran senator, who had always been victorious in receiving the majority vote to get automatic Republican nomination in Utah. Whichever of these prevails at GOP primary will run against Democratic nominee Scott Howell in November.

State Delegate Chris Chamberlain from Kearns said, “Well, Hatch almost pulled it off, he got 57.25% in the first round of balloting compared to Liljenquist’s 28.28 percent. We all thought he would easily get the 60 percent needed in the second round of balloting. But, when Thomas Wright stood up and announced, ‘We have the results for the second round of balloting.’ Then jokingly asked, ‘do you want to hear them?’ We all paused for the inevitable. But then his words ‘We’re going to have a primary,’ came as quite a shock. He then announced Hatch had 59.19 percent. That came a quite a relief to those of us who were supporting Liljenquist.”

Delegates stand for electronic voting, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo by Kate Dalley, St. George News

Governor Gary Herbert, incumbent, claimed the nomination for Governor; beating out Morgan Philpot and clinching just over 61 percent of the vote. Tea party enthusiasts were hoping to give Philpot a chance at becoming Utah’s next governor. Herbert will defend his seat against Democratic nominee Peter Cooke.

Herbert’s sitting Lt. Governor, Greg Bell, was sustained for the campaign on a yea or nay vote with resounding yeas. Bell’s counterpart by Democratic appointed nominee is Vince Rampton.

John Swallow and Sean Reyes will battle it out in a GOP primary election for Attorney General nominee. Their face-off Democratic opponent will be Dee Smith.

GOP Incumbent Treasurer, Richard K. Ellis, is uncontested within the GOP and will defend his position against Democratic nominee, Chris Stout.

For some reason, with no disrespect to the job or its holder intended, nomination for the state Auditor is that moment in the process akin to a foreign film award at the Oscars; it’s called “bathroom break,” (which, incidentally, were heavily weighted in queue on the men’s side, the women’s had no line at all the entire convention). And the nominees are . . . Austin Johnson for the GOP, defeating John Dougall, and Mark Sage for the Democratic Party.

Three candidates vied for nomination for the District 27 State Senate seat, incumbent David Hinkins, Stephen Whyte and Michael Stansfield. Stansfield dropped out in the first round of voting, and Hinkins ultimately prevailed as the nominee with 69.89 percent of the delegate vote over 30.1 percent to Whyte.  Hinkins will defend his seat against Democratic candidate Michael L. “Mike” Binyon in the November election.

Senator Casey Anderson

In another surprising turn, Utah incumbent Senator Casey Anderson received only 57 percent of the delegate vote, 3 percent shy of the 60 percent requirement to sustain his nomination. Anderson blamed the miss on 24 delegates either not showing or not voting, 12 of which got their credentials in too late to qualify for voting. Five additional votes would have given Anderson the nomination. Anderson now goes to GOP primary, in nomination contention against Evan Vickers, who received 43 percent of the vote, to vie for the District 28 State Senate seat against Democratic nominee Geoffrey Chestnut.

Incumbent Sen. Stephen H. Uquhart runs uncontested by the party to defend his seat against Democratic candidate Terence Moore for the District 29 State Senate seat.

Rob Bishop was nominated for the 1st Congressional District seat with 81 percent of the vote. Democratic delegate voting is ongoing to decide between candidates Ryan Combe and Donna McAleer, with their nomination expected to be announced by 5 p.m. on April 23.

Washington County delegate seating, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo by Kate Dalley, St. George News

Southern Utah came out in force with 10 Republican candidates seeking nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat. There was an 11th candidate who filed who did not show. The nominee will fight for the seat against Democratic nominee Jay Seegmiller – incumbent Rep. James Matheson is the Democratic nominee for the new 4th Congressional District, raising the hopes of the GOP to take the 2nd District, which has long been held by Matheson. Fireworks erupted and the 2nd District nominee race will be discussed shortly below in depth.

Jason Chaffetz clinched the nomination for the 3rd Congressional District seat by capturing 74.87 percent of the delegate vote. Chaffetz will run against Democratic candidate Soren Simonsen in November.

Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, received just over 70 percent of the vote, in a surprise upset beating out favorite Carl Wimmer, to capture the nomination for new 4th Congressional District seat. Love’s Democratic opponent will be the much-favored Matheson, promising a stimulating race to watch.

The last few hours of the convention were filled with high political scandal and theatrics in the 2nd Congressional District seat delegate voting. Rarely-seen campaigning, Eureka mayor, Milt Hanks, candidate for the nomination, gave a fiery and accusatory speech.  Hanks shockingly declared that backdoor deals had been conducted that morning between candidates Dave Clark, Cherilyn Eagar, Howard Wallace and Chuck Williams. He said the four made the deal in an attempt to combine their efforts against the front-runner Chris Stewart. He said he was called to join this group in their efforts but had declined. Hanks said it was dirty politics that make it impossible for the political process to work correctly and threw his support toward Stewart in front of the crowd, as he wanted to shed transparency on the issue. Everyone in attendance seemed surprised and confused.

Washington County delegates, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo by Kate Dalley, St. George News

In the vote that followed, Stewart took the lead at 39 percent, Clark came in second, and Hanks came in third place with a whopping 121 votes – after Hanks did virtually no campaigning.

Eager stepped onto the stage to give her speech for the next round of voting, publicly denouncing the dirty politics and calling for an investigation into Stewart’s campaign. Eager’s one-minute speech abruptly ended and she stood on the stage arguing with officials over getting more time at the microphone. Her highly charged state of emotion was evident, as she appeared speechless and angry at the prior voting results.

Candidate Chuck Williams took the stage and called Stewart a bold-faced liar as his emotional speech was cut off and his microphone muted. (As an aside, there was a mic muting at the Democratic Convention as well when one speaker overshot the time allotment, this is not altogether uncommon.) Williams, nevertheless, withdrew from the race, abruptly followed by candidate Howard Wallack, who followed suit with his own withdrawal. Eager then defiantly withdrew and all three of these candidates stood behind Clark on the stage to give Clark their collective support – just as Hanks had predicted in his speech.

Wallack said afterward that all four candidates had thought that Stewart ran a negative campaign and that, yes, he and the other candidates had decided that they would try to force a primary by withdrawing from the race and backing whoever took second place behind Stewart. They thought Stewart had constructed his own negative ad in a mailer; just to appear the victim of negative advertising. As both a county and state delegate, I personally never witnessed Stewart ever say a negative thing about any candidate at the many speeches that I attended and in my conversations with Stewart, and neither I nor any delegate I spoke with received any such advertisement as a delegate. That type of negative advertising would not have helped Stewart’s career and I am doubtful that Stewart’s own campaign would of sought to harm his chances of winning. The accusation doesn’t make sense. And many delegates said that they perceived these actions as ones of desperation in a tightly contested race for this seat.

2nd Congressional District hopeful, Jason Buck, with Kate Dalley, GOP State Nominating Convention, South Towne Exhibition Center, Sandy, Utah, April 21, 2012 | Photo courtesy of Kate Dalley, St. George News

Candidate Jason Buck’s campaign manager said that Buck had been approached that morning to be in the “Anyone But Chris or ABC” club and that Buck had declined, telling the person who called that he wasn’t interested in playing those types of politics.

Eager’s onstage tantrum was disconcerting to watch and William’s brazen accusations against Stewart’s character seemed over the top. Stewart was declined an opportunity to defend himself by Utah GOP Chair Wright, even after one of the delegates called for a humorously titled, “what the hell!?” motion, proposing Stewart be allowed to reply to the accusations; the motion was denied.

Many delegates said they felt confused and frustrated as they sought to seek the truth and make sense out of the events. Conspiracy theories became the crux of every conversation before the third and final vote took place for opponents Clark and Stewart. Some said they thought Stewart’s camp had placed Hanks in the race in an attempt to bolster Stewart’s already favored win. Clark’s camp denied any wrongdoing and said Stewart was behind the theatrics to foster an “underdog” vote. Stewart’s camp said they were in shock over the allegations and attempts to defame his character.

Stewart received over 61 percent of the vote in the third round, ousting Clark out of a primary, and capturing the nomination. The race will move on with Stewart facing his democratic challenger, Seegmiller, in the quest to be a state congressman.

Hopefully, this is a lesson learned and Stewart can enjoy his victory while moving ahead with his race against his opponents.

It is time to realize that game-playing politicians will be seen for what they are truly trying to accomplish and that the voters will be smart enough to understand the game.

Our political process hangs by a thread when the actions of some serve to denigrate the hard work of others.

Be present, dear readers, at the polls this November to give your voice to a political process that still matters.


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twitter: @STGnews / twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright 2012 St. George News.


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  • Jennifer April 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I appreciated this comprehensive coverage of the event, which I was able to view on live streaming, but couldn’t follow all day.

    I attended the UT GOP convention several years ago and noted it could be a highly charged emotional environment. Dalley’s description of what happened in the 2nd Congressional district sounds much more fair and balanced than what I read of it in a different Utah newspaper. My two cents is that the only conspiracy at the event is the one that was admitted to by the parties involved. It was nice to see that backroom deals were not rewarded. Good for the delegates making that stand.

    I have known Chris Stewart for many years, and I was pleased to see his victory. He is an even-tempered person who will make an excellent congressman. I wish him success.

  • Lee Rech April 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Dear Ms. Dalley and Ms. Kuzmanic,

    As Cherilyn Eagar’s communications counsel, it is important that I address and request a correction for your article, “Scandal and drama deliver surprise at UT GOP convention; election results for 2 parties.” The article incorrectly spelled Cherilyn’s name and purports that she had a tantrum on stage. I was there too, she did not.

    It is unfortunate for your readers that you did not interview all parties concerned given the seriousness of what happened in the 2nd Congressional race and the allegations by all parties currently being reviewed. However, it appears you are a Stewart / Milt Hanks delegate based on the level of bias that you were allowed to include in your story:

    “As both a county and state delegate, I personally never witnessed Stewart ever say a negative thing about any candidate at the many speeches that I attended and in my conversations with Stewart, and neither I nor any delegate I spoke with received any such advertisement as a delegate. That type of negative advertising would not have helped Stewart’s career and I am doubtful that Stewart’s own campaign would of sought to harm his chances of winning. The accusation doesn’t make sense. And many delegates said that they perceived these actions as ones of desperation in a tightly contested race for this seat.”

    I kindly ask that you submit a correction that includes the correct spelling of Cherilyn’s name as well as an admittance that the “onstage tantrum” was overstated. I also request, as a fellow delegate, that you consider that there are always two sides to every story. I am confident the truth will come out.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request,

    NOTE: Since the submission of this rebuttal just today, the editor Joyce Kuzmanic has ackknowledged the spelling error and correct it online for which I thank her. However, Ms. Dalley holds to the Opinion format and has chosen not to apologize for her perspective on Mrs. Eagar’s conduct. While I am deeply disappointed with her decision and do not agree with her in the least, I do respect Ms. Dalley’s First Amendment rights.

  • Dave Heaton April 24, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Being in the communications field myself, it’s certainly reasonable to request a spelling correction, but to ask for an apology for an opinion seems over the top. I wasn’t there, but a review of comments reveals that Kate is not the only attendee that felt Mrs. Eagar’s conduct was unprofessional.

    • Lee Rech April 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Dave –

      This was not a pure Op Ed piece per the byline above — *NEWS AND OPINION. Maybe you didn’t catch that.

      Given the byline, I had every right as Cherilyn Eagar’s communications support to call the contributor Kate Dalley on her seemingly bias reporting as well as spelling errors. However, when I found out it was a more unconventional hybrid story of sorts, I acknowledged her First Amendment rights to her opinion and felt free to document my own opinions on the story per the recommendation of the editor.

      Hope this clears it up for you.


  • Richard Shipp April 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I was a delegate as well. Cherilyn did not have an onstage tantrum by any stretch. What happened (in my view) was that she was crushed by what she perceived as a grenade thrown at her that exploded. She was devasted. I think that is an accurate portrayal. She was left almost disoriented and speechless. When she finally got some composure, she talked about having always tried to run a fair and respectful campaign, implying that what happened in the other room (from where we other district delegates sat) had grossly crossed the line. I have no doubt that she was telling the truth as she perceived it. Again, whatever happened, really devastated her. She basically said no more, she (and her supporters on stage) turned, and with stooped shoulders just withdrew from the stage. It was not till later, in coming to the mike on the floor, that the Chair asked if she was in or out of the race. She then said she withdrew.

    It was not a pretty picture. I think most people there saw that she did not rant or attack anyone, not even close. She just withdrew.

    For those who don’t know her, she is a Women’s Rights advocate of national attention, and has done a lot for our Republican Party. I’m sure that most of us in the party have appreciated her work and efforts through many election cycles, and whether we vote for her or not (I have not), we surely do respect the dignity with which she carries herself.

    Whatever happened in the other room, I’m sure it was regrettable.

    • Lee Rech April 29, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      Thank you Richard, I couldn’t have put it any better. You nailed it – mass confusion and shock.

    • Karl May 17, 2012 at 4:04 am

      Actually, she literally stormed off the stage. She did, in fact, throw a tantrum. Cherilyn also has a history of backroom deals, Tim Bridgewater (where Cherilyn’s debt was paid off by Bridgewater in return for his support, ie, a bribe), and the issue back in Connecticut that Cherilyn has tried to outrun her whole political career. I have a feeling she is done in politics, and based on what I’ve read her, she’s absolutely corrupt. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were issues that have been hidden. If I were a reporter, I’d FOIA or GRAMA police records in regards to Cherilyn, and possibly some domestic abuse issues that may or may not have arisen.

  • William April 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Does anyone recall the late eighties when Howard Neilsen left the House of Representative and a very ugly Republican primary ensued. The State ended up with a Democrat holding the seat for several years. Great care should be taken by candidates when their personal ambition to achieve a certain outcome or to defame others is engaged in. Such behavior could seriously undermine their professed objective altogether.
    On another issue I commend Carl Wimmer, who immediately endorsed Mia Love when she was an outright victor at the same convention, but for a different seat. Carl, and most of the crowd anticipated he would be the victor at the convention. The result surprised more than a few folks. yet, he conducted himself with dignity.

  • Sandy April 26, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    John Dougall is actually in a Primary against Johnson for State Auditor. Johnson did not defeat John Dougall.

    Love your comments about the bathroom break though, very true!

  • Adam gale April 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    My take on the convention as I witnessed it first hand.

    The response from Cherilyn Eagar attempting to intimidate, bully me, and her weak attempts to use the LDS religion (I am a Mormon) to manipulate me. These kind of politics should be shunned in Utah, and WE THE PEOPLE need to rise up, and voice our opposition to Washington as Usual politics.

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