In the fall of 2016, a small group began to talk about what to do about the dysfunctional state of politics in Utah. Some were Democrats who were unhappy with the leftward turn of a state Democratic party that did not care to appeal to the majority of Utah voters. Others were Republicans who were aghast at the rightward tilt of the Republican Party with the nomination of Donald Trump as well as the rise of the Tea Party and the arrogance of the dominant party fighting popular reforms like Count My Vote.
The group began to consider something totally new in the Utah political landscape - a political party that reached across existing party lines and favored moderation rather than extremism and pragmatism and problem-solving rather than ideology. The group began to reach out to others to discover whether there was broader interest in such an idea. The numbers of those interested in the idea grew.
By early 2017, the group was meeting weekly and planning how to organize a new party. Over the next few months, regular participants included Richard Davis, Bryson and Jan Garbett, Vaughn and Kathy Cook, Aaron Aizad, Deon Turley, Mark Russell, George Monsivias, and Bruce Lindsay. In April 2017, the group formed a political action committee - the United Utah Party - to launch a petition campaign for official registration as a new political party. The group also hired Jim Bennett as a part-time executive director to help build the new party and supervise the signature campaign.
When Representative Jason Chaffetz announced his resignation date and Governor Gary Herbert called the special election, the group already was gathering signatures to become a certified party. At that point, we decided to accelerate our signature gathering to participate in the special election. Also, Jim Bennett told us that he was considering running for the seat.
We announced the party's formation on May 22 at a press conference at the Capitol Building. We told those assembled that we would be submitting signatures by the end of the week and that we would expect to have a candidate for the special election. Jim Bennett announced his candidacy on May 25, the same day the party submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
On May 26, when Jim went to file, he was turned down by Mark Thomas, the Elections Office director. That precipitated the lawsuit to place Jim on the ballot.
The party's first convention was held in Corner Canyon High School in Draper on June 17, 2017. At the convention, delegates approved the constitution, the bylaws, and the party platform. The delegates also elected party officers. The convention then formally nominated Jim Bennett as the party's Congressional candidate. Jim was the only individual who filed for the nomination.
On June 26, the party was officially certified by the state of Utah. That allowed us to compete in the 2018 elections. We still had to sue to gain the right to compete in the Third Congressional District special election in 2017.
The United Utah Party is now official and will be a force in changing politics in Utah. Come and join us! Make the Difference!