Like county parties, state parties have their organizating conventions in off years, when they’re not nominating candidates. Some of the most important business is is electing party officers. The Utah State Republican Party 2023 Organizating Convention is this Saturday, April 22nd, at UVU’s UCCU Center in Orem. Here’s my report on my interviews with most of the candidates for state GOP party office.
Where there are multiple candidates for an office, those interviewed are in alphabetical order by surname below.
Utah State GOP Chair
Robert is running unopposed for chair after Mike Bird withdrew. He grew up in Alpine and worked for Senator Lee for 13 years. He was previously the state GOP Vice Chair under party Chair Derek Brown.
Robert wants to keep Utah as a great place to raise your family. We can’t assume that this will always be the case. The party has done well but has played far below its potential. It needs to keep growing and inviting new members. We have the youngest state per capita.
Robert said that in order to reach young people, we need to assume that the others won’t properly represent us and need to have quality actions ourselves. We need to consistently collaborate with folks, letting them come to their own conclusions with their shared experience. We need to control our own destiny and narrative and find meaningful ways to set people on a trajectory that is beneficial for the party.
He also said that we need to have a fair nomination process through to the election and then support whoever wins. We need to embrace elected officials and even pray for them, even if they are of another party. We should always find ways to improve elections but never undermine them. The party should allow for a diversity of opinion.
Utah State GOP Vice Chair
Jordan is the current state party Vice Chair and is running for a second term, unopposed. He is Public Affairs Officer for Washington City, where he handles PR, communications, and government affairs work. Washington City is the fastest growing city in the fastest growing county in Utah, and was recently ranked the best small city in the country to start a small business.
When asked about his first term, he said having all new people was a challenge, as was holding in-person caucuses, right after redistricting and after skipping a cycle. Jordan said they didn’t get maps from the state until right before the caucus, so they relied heavily on the counties.
Jordan has spent time trying to reach a younger demographic and helped make Young Republicans an official auxiliary of the party. He also was on the board for the Republican Women Lead PAC. They were able to raise tens of thousands of dollars and give money to many different female candidates at many different levels.
During a second term he wants to focus on raising money through building bridges. Jordan would like to see the party broadened, and that will help raise more money from donors. He also wants to strengthen the caucus. Washington County recently passed a rule that discloses all delegate attendance and votes for the county. They also raised the threshold for candidates to avoid a primary challenge (from the convention) to 70% of the delegate vote at the county convention. He wants to make caucus night more accessible and available but isn’t quite sure how to do that.
Jordan believes in the Reagan rule. You only need to agree on about 80% of things to be friends. He was able to have both Senator Lee’s and Representative Curtis’s crowds support him when he ran for Vice Chair. He is excited to work with Rob Axson, who is the sole candidate for Chair. They worked together for Senator Lee for four years.
Utah State GOP Secretary
Stafford Palmieri Sievert
Stafford was most recently a senate chair in Davis County and is running for state party Secretary. She was also president of the Lincoln Club for her county. In 2022 they did so well with fundraising that they were able to give $60k to candidates.
When asked why she is running she said we need to get the basics right with the office. This means sending out agendas and notices right and not needing to send out corrections. The chair shouldn’t need to be sending calls for convention, and the bylaws need to be put up correctly.
Stafford is the CEO of a tech consulting company that helps small businesses go to market. Part of that is helping capture analytics and setting up marketing funnels. She believes that she can use these skills to help the party grow. It is important to reach out to all members, not just delegates. SB54 (which allows candidates to bypass the convention and enter a primary with petitions) is here to stay, and we need to rethink the role of the party. We need to communicate the platform to the average party member.
Stafford also said there is a lot of inefficiency with how the state and county parties interact. Many people don’t understand how to use technology, and many county parties are doing their own thing. She would like to have a call with all of the county chairs to discuss best practices and have them share information with each other, while realizing that different counties have different issues.
Stafford also realizes that the next person to have the role will need to continue to operate any solutions that are set up. But she sees a need to fundraise in order to have staff again for the party.
Nicholas was born in Russia and later adopted. He moved to the US at age 7 and was amazed when he visited a Macey’s grocery store in Spanish Fork. Since then he studied international business management at UVU. There he served as president of the UVU Republicans.
Nicholas said that we have a supermajority in Utah and need to give back to the community. He helped hold a Utah First event and gave money back to other college Republicans throughout the state.
He sees the state party secretary’s role as a communication heavy-position and says we need to do better. His first priority is updating the party website, which is five years out of date. His day job is working with a political consulting firm as a project manager, managing websites. He knows how to deliver a website on day one that will last past the end of his term.
Nicholas also said we need a management system that anybody can use on day one, such as Workfront or Salesforce. Salt Lake County is already using one. We also need to get back on social media as a party. The party needs to post information on what is going on and keep Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram up to date.
He would also like to send out a newsletter to keep people up to date. He confirmed that there is a problem with the current secretary not sending stuff out. For example, people didn’t know about the booth draw for the state convention. He is not here to play politics, but to give information to others to help them make informed and critical decisions.
Olivia did not show up to the interview she scheduled or respond to attempted communications after that.
Utah State GOP Treasurer
McKay is running because Jordan Hess talked him into it. He has been involved in helping resurrect and expand the Young Republicans in Utah. They added two new chapters and regained national federation status. They also became an official auxiliary of the state party.
McKay is concerned that the state population is growing faster than the party. He believes that we need to reach out to not just to millennials but also to Gen Z.
He started a solar company that has grown to 700 employees. 99% of them are Gen Z. He said that the state party Treasurer position is like a CFO and can either drive the budget for growth or hold people back.
McKay has spoken to previous officers to come up with a plan. He believes that transparency is key. If you track a metric it will improve. If you track and report it then it will improve even faster.
When asked about how to grow the party, he has already done this with the Young Republicans. They were able to hold informal events for people to attend, so they could see that there were plenty of people just like then. He would later ask about certain issues and help them realize that they are actually Republicans and their values fit in with the values of the party. He heard a lot of the “don’t like Trump” sentiment and this was a great way for prospects to see who average Republicans were.
Patrick was unable to show up for a scheduled interview and was unable to find time to reschedule.
John Mulholland lives in American Fork, Utah. His reports on candidate interviews have appeared at AFelection.info since 2017. His writing on Utah politics has appeared at Utah Politico Hub.