Jim Bennett, son of former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, said today he intends to run as a United Utah Party candidate rather than as an unaffiliated candidate to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Ut., in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.
Bennett filed for the vacant Congressional seat on May 26, but Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas rejected the application as a candidate because the United Utah Party had not been certified as a qualified political party.
“It is unfortunate,” Bennett said. “In just a few weeks we’ve heard from thousands of registered Utah voters who want this to happen. What a shame it would be to refuse their democratic action.”
Bennett and the United Utah Party are proceeding with confidence. On Saturday at Corner Canyon High School in Draper, the party will hold its first convention where members will officially nominate Bennett for the special elections race.
"We are pleased that Jim Bennett wants to run in the special election as our party's candidate and we hope that he can do so," said Richard Davis, United Utah Party chair. "We know many Utahns want to him to be able to run as a party candidate.”
While Bennett and his party are doing everything possible to comply with the law, they are seeking help from the law. A legal challenge is moving forward that would assure Bennett can run as a duly elected official of his party. Bennett expects the challenge will succeed, although he remains hopeful that such legal action will not be necessary and that the Lieutenant Governor’s office will agree to allow Bennett to appear on the special ballot as the United Utah Party candidate.
“Utahns have acted with faith in democracy and their elected officials,” Bennett said. “They deserve this.”
Read Richard Davis's Guest Editorial in the Daily Herald:
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The United Utah Party is holding house parties in various parts of the state over the next few weeks. The purpose is to inform voters about what the party is, why we formed, and what we hope to accomplish.
Please take a look at the Events link of this website to see if there is one coming up that is near you. If so, please come. Also, invite your friends to come and learn more about the party.
The Deseret News published this op ed piece about the Utah Elections Office's refusal to let Jim file as the United Utah Party candidate. More perplexing still, they're also refusing to give a reason:
The United Utah Party will hold a nominating convention on Saturday, June 17, from 10 am to noon at Corner Canyon High School in Draper. The main purpose of the convention will be to nominate a candidate for the Third Congressional District special election race. According to the timetable of the special election set by the Utah Elections Office, political parties seeking to nominate a candidate for the special election must do so by June 19 and forward that name to the Utah Elections Office.
"Anticipating certification shortly, we are seeking to comply with the law in order to have a candidate on the ballot in November under our party's banner," said party chair Richard Davis.
The new party submitted its petition signatures and other materials on May 26 for certification of a party. The Utah Elections Office has yet to officially certify the party, even though the party submitted 700 more signatures than was required to be certified.
"We anticipate we will be certified shortly and will be able to conduct business as an officially qualified political party in the state of Utah," Davis explained. "That means voters will have another alternative to the two major parties that have become increasingly extreme."
Only one candidate, Jim Bennett, son of former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, filed as a candidate for the special election under the United Utah Party label. The Utah Elections Office rejected his filing, although the party is preparing legal action to challenge that decision.
“I’m thrilled to represent the United Utah Party in this campaign,” Bennett said. “It’s time that Utahns had a real choice at the ballot box, as opposed to having to pick between an uncompetitive Democrat and the party of Trump.”
According to Davis, the party's first convention business also will include the election of officers, the formation of county party organizations, and the approval of a platform as well as a constitution and bylaws. The party will not elect delegates at caucuses. Instead, all party members (those officially registered voters who have affiliated with the party through their voter registration forms) will be invited to participate. Voter registration forms will be provided at the convention to register to vote as members of the United Utah Party.
The United Utah Party convention is open to the public and free of charge
On Sunday, the Salt Lake Tribune published this article by Richard Davis explaining why there is a need for a new political party in Utah. Check it out at:
This article originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on June 4, 2017.
My name is Jim Bennett, and I'm running as a candidate in the special election to replace Jason Chaffetz as the congressman in Utah's 3rd District. I'm running as the candidate for the newly formed United Utah Party, which is committed to providing political home to those who are uncomfortable with the extremism that has overtaken both the Republicans and the Democrats.
And I couldn't ask for a better real-life illustration for why Utah needs our party than my experience at the state election office on Friday, May 26.
A day earlier, my party submitted 2,700 signatures of registered voters in order to become a qualified political party in Utah. (Only 2,000 were required.) Elections Director Mark Thomas told us he'd do everything in his power to make sure the signatures were certified the following day so I could file as a candidate with the state.
Thomas met with us the next day and told us that there was no way the party would be certified by the end of the day, which meant I wouldn't be able to file as a partisan candidate. I asked how far along they were in the process. They wouldn't tell me. I suggested they allow me to file provisionally, pending certification of the party. They wouldn't do it. I then suggested they extend my deadline to June 12, which is the deadline for unaffiliated candidates to file. No, they said, they wouldn't do that, either.
Why not? They had no answer. They just refused.
The fact is that there is no statute or law that would prevent them from allowing me to run as a candidate for my party. The elections office is well within its rights to accept my filing papers provisionally, but they simply didn't want to do it. The 2,700 people who signed petitions saying they wanted a new party on the ballot deserve that option, but the elections office has arbitrarily decided to deny additional choices to Utah voters.
We're working with a lawyer to challenge this decision, and he advised me to go up to the elections office and attempt to file to demonstrate that I was doing everything in my power to comply with the governor's special election calendar. So I walked into the elections office late Friday afternoon, and I was immediately confronted by a wall of news cameras, along with Thomas, his chief deputy, and several other officials, who were standing at the front desk, waiting for me to arrive.
The tension in the room was almost palpable as I requested the filing papers. Initially, Thomas refused to give them to me, but he relented when I pointed out these papers, by law, were required to be publicly available. As I filled them out, I came to a part where I had to initial that the elections office had read some rules aloud to me. I asked that someone read me the rules, and Thomas refused.
"We're not playing your games," he said.
"I'm not trying to play games," I said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to comply with the law."
It didn't matter; Thomas refused to read it, and nobody else would, either. So I told him I would make a note on my papers that they had refused to read it. I filled out the rest of the papers, wrote out a check, placed the papers on the front desk, and thanked them for their time.
It was an entirely surreal experience.
As I look back on it now, I'm curious as to why Thomas seemed so insistent on staging a dramatic confrontation. If he knew he was going to reject my filing, then why not do it away from the cameras? Why not have the clerk at the front desk hand me the papers pleasantly, let me fill them out, and then quietly toss them in the trash after I left? Why did he go out of his way to make my experience as hostile as possible?
The fact of the matter is that Utah is one-party state, and that officials from that party aren't used to being challenged. I'm convinced Thomas wanted to provoke me in order to send a clear message: we're in charge, and we don't have to listen to you. And if you don't like it, we don't care.
The good news is that we have good reason to believe the law is on our side, and that our challenge will be successful. But if you're looking for proof that Utah needs a political party that will stand up to the establishment, look no further than my tense run-in with the elections office.
Last Friday, United Utah Party candidate Jim Bennett attempted to file for office and was denied by Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas. Jim and the party are preparing a challenge to this decision. We are confident that the law is on our side, and that Jim will be on the ballot as a candidate for the United Utah Party.
People have been asking questions about what happened at the elections office on that occasion, so we thought it would be appropriate to share some video footage of the exchange between Jim Bennett and Mark Thomas that took place at the elections office one week ago today.