Utah GOP appeal of SB54 loss to be heard by 10th Circuit as frustrations mount

SALT LAKE CITY — The special election to fill Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s seat in Congress is stirring up frustrations about a controversial law changing the candidate nomination process, even as the Utah GOP continues to fight the law in court.

Now, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments on Sept. 25 in the state Republican Party’s attempt to overturn a 2016 federal court ruling upholding the law known as SB54.

“I want to see resolution as quickly as possible,” the recently elected Utah GOP chairman, Rob Anderson, said Thursday. Anderson campaigned on ending the legal fight, which has contributed to the party’s nearly $500,000 debt.

But he said while he’ll lay out the costs of the legal battle to members of the party’s governing State Central Committee at its next meeting in August, he doesn’t expect to be able to stop the case from going forward.

“I think if I step in and drop the legal challenge before the 10th Circuit, there will always be this group of people who will think we could have won,” Anderson said. “The most decisive outcome to me would be a failing grade” from the court.

That will add to the party’s debt because the attorneys representing the party expect to be paid, Anderson said, contrary to what he termed “misinformation” about their arrangement.

“It’s going to cost us,” he said, but hopefully will make it clear it “makes sense to work within the constructs of SB54,” which still allows for candidates to be nominated through the party’s caucus and convention system.

The law, a compromise with backers of the Count My Vote initiative that sought to replace the party’s nomination system with a direct primary, offers an alternative path to the ballot, gathering voter signatures.

Count My…

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