The new chairman of the Utah Republican Party has an ambitious goal for the GOP in Summit County: win each of the partisan elected offices in the county.
James Evans, a Salt Lake City resident who owns payday loan stores, acknowledges it will be difficult to win a clean slate for the Republicans in Summit County. The county has long been one of the most reliably Democratic areas in the state, propped up by a population that includes lots of people who moved from places like California, New York and other states on the coasts.
The Democrats hold a majority on the Summit County Council, and the party's candidates up the ticket, such as the Statehouse and Congress, usually perform well locally even as they lose campaigns to Republicans with wide support elsewhere.
"The priorities are the same. Summit County is where we have some challenges from Democrats," Evans said.
He said he wants to increase the presence of the GOP in Summit County as the Republicans make advances on a statewide basis. Evans said he wants to better use technology as a tool during elections. That could provide critical information at a localized level. Republicans leaders could then engage those voters, he said.
"We have to know each precinct throughout the state," Evans said.
Meanwhile, Evans said, he plans efforts to ensure Republican voters head to the polls on Election Day. Many registered Republicans did not in 2012, Evans said, an election that seemed to energize the party in Utah with Mitt Romney on the ballot.
"We have enough votes there, but we have to get voters to the poll," he said.
Evans was elected to a two-year term at the party's state convention on Saturday. Willie Billings, who had been the leader of the Washington County Republican Party, was elected the vice chair.
Evans said another priority will be strengthening participation in the caucus-convention nominating system. Caucuses are important to candidates as they seek support for the conventions. The candidates can avoid a primary election if they bring enough support to the convention, something that affords them the chance to focus efforts on the general election early.
Evans said Park City is a draw for politicians and the state Republicans want to showcase the community. There have been a series of high-profile political events of both of the major parties in the Park City area in the last decade. Romney last year held a large gathering in Deer Valley and plans to return this year for another set of meetings with top tier Republicans. Other Republicans have visited Park City on fundraising visits, including George W. Bush during his second term as president.
Thomas Wright, who preceded Evans as the chairman of the state Republican Party, said in an interview Summit County is "critical to our success." Wright is the owner and president of Park City-based Summit Sotheby's International Realty.
Wright predicted the area will continue to host fundraising events for national-level candidates and congressional campaigns. Wright said he will provide assistance to the state party in its fundraising efforts, outreach and media relations.
"Summit County will always be important to the Utah Republican Party because it represents an important part of our state," Wright said.