Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 News) – Utah Republicans gathered today to pick new leadership for the party at the State Organizing Convention.
In recent years, the event has gained a reputation for being contentious and long.
Not this year, as a new tone was set early on that made it clear there was little appetite for fighting and drawn out debate.
The main event on this year’s agenda was an election for a new party chair.
Four candidates lined up for the job, but it wasn’t a close race.
Former state lawmaker and former Senator Lee staffer Derek Brown walked away with it in the first round of voting.
“There’s a lot as a party that has really been difficult, and troubling, and sort of taken people apart. And, I think today’s decision by the party, fundamentally, is a decision to not look backwards, but to look forward to the future to a Republican Party that’s united and together,” said Brown.
Brown says that includes ending the fight over SB54, which created the signature path to the primary and has been a big source of division.
“The litigation is over, so my focus as chair is not going to be on re-litigating things of the past,” Brown said.
Brown says he’s heard from thousands of delegates who all say it’s time to unify.
That was evident at convention as any attempt to argue over rules was quickly extinguished.
“I think you saw an uprising here today that said, you know, we don’t have to have this long, elongated debates on silly issues,” said Governor Gary Herbert, (R) Utah.
And, with a new direction comes the end for Rob Anderson who decided not to run again after one term as chair.
As delegates wished him well he was fighting back tears.
“I’m really emotional because of the support I got from certain individuals. You go into a hostile environment and you build some strong bonds of trust,” said Anderson.
He says the party is in good hands moving forward with the new team that also includes Aaron Starks as vice chair, Kendra Seeley as secretary and Michael Bird as treasurer.
At convention delegates even voted to drop conversation on constitutional amendment and bylaw changes.
It wrapped up in a little more than three hours, a stark contrast from last year’s that went well into the night.