Summit County Republicans rally even with blanks on ballot
Park City-area Republicans gathered for a party caucus on Tuesday night, an event that seemed subdued compared to some previous ones as the GOP attempts to rally during a year when the party did not field candidates in the closely watched County Courthouse campaigns.
The Summit County Republican Party held caucuses in the three regions of the county, including one at Park City High School, to learn about the 2018 campaigns. The party caucuses are typically an important step in the political season, when candidates attempt to amass delegates for the nominating conventions. At least a few hundred people attended the gatherings between the three locations, according to the party.
Without Republicans challenging for the County Courthouse posts, though, the atmosphere on Tuesday was not as boisterous as it would likely had been if there were GOP hopefuls vying for nominations or even running unchallenged within the party. The Republicans at the high school instead talked about the mechanics of the different routes to the ballot and a range of issues like gun laws and public lands.
Brantley Eason, the chair of the Summit County Republican Party, said in an interview at the Park City caucus location the party is “good to go” for the November election. Eason said the Republican Party’s slate of candidates in the state-level campaigns that include portions of Summit County is “on point.”
“We’ll contend there. We’ll win seats,” he said about the Statehouse campaigns.
He said he has not spoken to anyone who is considering mounting a write-in campaign in the County Courthouse contests with the absence of any Republicans on the ballot. Eason, though, said the prospects have not been ruled out.
“If someone decides to jump in as a write-in candidate, nothing surprises me anymore,” he said.
The county caucuses are seen as the grass-roots level of politics as people gather with others from their neighborhoods to discuss a wide range of issues. The caucuses are crucial in years when there are challenges within a party for nominations, and those held in years of a presidential election have added intrigue with the White House at the top of the ticket.
The Republicans filled in seats at individual tables based on the neighborhoods. The people at one of the tables touched on gun laws and the role of the National Rifle Association in the national discussion. The table quickly moved to public lands issues, such as the controversial Bears Ears National Monument in Southern Utah. One person said they did not have enough information to address the national monument while another said the national monument should remain intact.
One of the prominent Republicans in attendance, Bruce Hough, spoke in an interview about the lack of GOP candidates in the County Courthouse campaigns. Hough, who lives in Park Meadows, was a Republican national committeeman for eight years ending in 2016 and was once the chair of the state Republican Party.
“In Summit County, I would say we’re hanging on by a thread,” Hough acknowledged. “You can’t even have a competitive race because you have a ‘R’ next to your name.”
He said there have been elected officials in Summit County who have changed their party affiliation from Republican to Democratic “so they could win their jobs.”
Hough explained many people have moved to Summit County over the years from Democratic-leaning states like New York and California, influencing the political makeup of the county. Hough, as an example, said former County Attorney David Brickey performed well in the position. As a Republican, though, Brickey was unable to keep the office, he said.
“But he had an ‘R’ next to his name. The numbers just don’t work in this county,” Hough said, adding, “Right now, Summit County is probably the most frustrating county.”
The Summit County Republicans are scheduled to gather again on April 17 for the county GOP convention, scheduled at South Summit High School.
Summit County Clerk Evelyn Furse said ballots are expected to be mailed on Oct. 18 and should arrive later that week.
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