The Utah GOP is losing a really great leader, at least at its helm.
The current party Chair Derek Brown recently announced he won’t be seeking a second term at this year’s organizing convention. Every two years the party holds an organizing convention to elect leadership — chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer and national committeewoman and committeeman.
Somehow, Brown has been able to thread the needle of representing the Trump-led GOP while still maintaining class, decency, and levelheadedness. Not a small feat with Trump at the helm.
For example, the Utah GOP recently issued a press release supporting both Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Mitt Romney after their opposing impeachment votes, noting “There is power in our differences as a political party.” That’s leadership.
Heck, we still have some in the party trying to censure Romney. Yet both factions of Utah’s GOP like Brown, and that’s saying a lot. I can only imagine what it took over the last two years to keep the party above this fray. He did it well, but I don’t blame him for leaving. It’s a thankless job.
He’s moving on, though, and the direction of Utah’s GOP is again up in the air. And you can be sure that many are ready to pounce.
But for me, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For instance, we have new leadership in state government who say they are committed to including women. They ran on the idea that state government is “missing women’s stories.” In fact, of course, the new lieutenant governor is a woman, and I know these issues are important to her.
They even declared March 8 as “Women’s Day” in Utah. The declaration stated that “women are leading contributors to Utah’s prominence on the economic world stage.” And “Utah women own over 89,000 businesses — they are innovators, and employ people in every industry sector across the state.” And “Utah women comprise nearly 45% of the state’s workforce” and “control a majority of the consumer purchasing power.”
Yet when Utah GOP leaders appointed members to one of the most important commissions in the next 10 years — the Independent Redistricting Commission — Utah Republicans didn’t think to appoint one woman. I guess they’re leaving that important job to the Utah Democrats, who appointed at least two — the only two out of seven members.
And I get it. Each leader only had one spot to appoint, after all. (*Sarcasm, for those in the back)
Gov. Spencer Cox recently recognized on Twitter that “When women are outnumbered in groups, they speak about 75% less than men and are interrupted more often.”
I guess our GOP leaders don’t want women’s voices elevated on the redistricting commission.
Sure, we have a new cabinet filled with competent, smart women helping to run state government. And I’m certainly thankful for that. But we have to come to a place where women are included on every commission and committee, especially the important ones. And we aren’t there yet.
I think it’s time we have a woman at the head of Utah’s GOP. And I’m calling on every male leader in the state to make sure that happens. Recruit a competent woman to run. Donate money to her campaign. Call the delegates for her. Let’s see what Utah’s GOP can really do for good in this state.
And no, I’m not angling for support to run for the position myself. I tried that once, years ago. I was a current party officer and the chair expressed his intent not to run again. The vice chair also did not want the position. I put it out there that I wanted to run. Sen. Lee supported me almost immediately. I was grateful for that. Sen. Orrin Hatch wasn’t involved. But then-Gov. Gary Herbert wouldn’t support my candidacy. He was trying to recruit a guy who had run for chair two years prior and lost, even though the guy wasn’t interested.
I was a current party officer wanting to run for chair and the governor wouldn’t support me. Sure, I was married to a guy who was suing him at the time, but the governor kept saying he supported that lawsuit. And it shouldn’t have mattered who I was married to.
The point is, even when the party had a woman who had the “experience” — I was a current party officer — and the interest and the drive and the capability, the party leaders refused to support the woman.
Let’s be better. Let’s elect a woman to lead Utah’s GOP. It won’t be the first time. But it will be the right time.
Michelle Quist is a Salt Lake City attorney and a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.