The special election set for Tuesday, when Republican delegates in House District 63 will choose a replacement for the recently resigned Rep. Dean Sanpei, could be called a family affair.
The district GOP chairman is Leo Lines, a longtime GOP activist who has been an assistant to senators on Capitol Hill.
Because District 63 covers nearly all the student housing complexes for Provo’s Brigham Young University, it has a large transient population moving in an out after semesters. Many of those students become delegates but don’t stay through their full terms.
When Sanpei announced in early December that he was leaving the Legislature to take a job in Colorado, Lines set out to find replacements for 24 absentee delegates out of 55 total slots.
So Lines chose his wife, two children, a cousin and several close friends and fellow Mormon ward members to help fill those vacant posts.
He then announced that he would run for Sanpei’s seat, ensuring that several of the voting delegates will be referring to Lines, one of two candidates, as “dad,” “dear” or “brother.”
That’s quite an edge.
The other candidate is Adam Robertson, who backs the caucus-convention system and believes that having delegates elected by friends and neighbors is a good thing.
Lines insists he did nothing wrong.
“Due to the short window to replace Dean Sanpei, and the highly transient district and the time frame of the holidays and the students being gone for the holiday break, as a precinct chair, I appointed three people that are related to me. Two of them were already state delegates,” Lines told me in an email. “The other three I appointed were longtime neighbors who live in the precinct and are currently registered Republicans and regularly are active in our neighborhood caucus and were available over the holidays to vet the candidates for this special election.”
He said he appointed two delegates from his opponent’s precinct, one of whom is in Robertson’s LDS congregation.
“One,” Lines acknowledged, “is a distant relative on my mother’s side. All of these appointments were made according to the [party’s] bylaws.”
Some in the district, however, worry that the stacked deck could help Lines win the legislative seat and saddle Utah County with another Greg Graves mess. Graves is the Utah County commissioner who won the Republican nomination at the convention before problems in his past surfaced.
Lines has been involved in about a dozen court cases, mostly alleging that he did not pay his bills.
“I am only aware of one case that I am involved in currently,” Lines said. “This case involves a dispute with a merchant over a purchase.”
The story this week about a Louisiana-based super PAC encouraging Rep. Mia Love — against her wishes — to run for Sen. Orrin Hatch’s seat is a recurring theme for the Utah congresswoman.
In 2014, a donation-seeking super PAC based in Sacramento, Calif., touted Love as the most exciting Republican candidate in the field. But the group’s flyer, noting that Love would be the first black Republican woman in history to serve in Congress, had flaws. It featured a photograph of another black woman, a city official in Texas, and identified her as Love.
Then, in 2016, yet another super PAC sought contributions supposedly to help re-elect Love.
Dave Hansen, Love’s campaign manager, said these super PACs pick a candidate to endorse simply so they can raise money for themselves. He said it is not illegal and nothing can be done about it, other than discouraging donors to give to those groups.
It’s another way the Citizens United ruling has screwed up elections.
Speaking of courting delegates
It’s a good thing Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, has indicated on his campaign filing form that he intends to gather signatures to get on the primary ballot.
He seems too reasonable to win the hearts of the often-rabid GOP delegates.
In the upcoming legislative session, Ward is sponsoring a concurrent resolution on climate change that acknowledges temperatures have increased through the decades and that the scientific consensus points to human-caused emissions as a substantial cause.
His resolution would commit the governor and Legislature to base decisions regarding energy policy “on the best scientific evidence available.”
That’s enough to send the Mike Noel faction of the Republican Party into apoplexy.