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Election season brings high-ranking Republicans to Summit County

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, foreground right, and Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland, behind Lee, talk to convention-goers at the Summit County Republican Convention on Tuesday.
Alexander Cramer
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, foreground right, and Utah Rep. Kera Birkeland, behind Lee, talk to convention-goers at the Summit County Republican Convention on Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, U.S. Reps. John Curtis and Blake Moore and Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson visited the Summit County Republican Convention on Tuesday to shore up support among the party faithful.

Summit County Republican Chair Karen Ballash greeted the crowd of about 150 convention-goers Tuesday night as they gathered to hear speeches from candidates.

“We thank you for your part in making the Summit County Republican Party great again,” Ballash said. “Thank you.”

Before the speech portion of the night, the meet-and-greet at the middle school in Kamas felt a little like a science fair. There were booths and posters advertising candidates; candy bars and cookies luring attendees to certain exhibits; and people milling around taking notes.

But the stakes were pretty high. Republican candidates and incumbents from the federal, state and local levels — some paying a rare visit to the Wasatch Back — were attempting to garner support ahead of the state convention on Saturday. Some delegates who were in Kamas on Tuesday will vote in the state convention, where several races may be decided.

The convention gave a rare chance for Summit County voters to hear directly from some of the state’s most powerful elected leaders — one three-minute speech at a time. Some of the recurring themes: inflation; high gas prices; government overreach; social issues including transgender athletes and school curriculum; and energy independence through increased domestic oil and gas production.

Sen. Mike Lee took the podium to the loudest cheers up to that point in the evening, but there were also some boos. He told the crowd he loved coming up to Summit County as a child when his grandparents lived here. After thanking delegates, Lee told the crowd “Washington is not run by people who agree with us.”

He derided restrictions on oil and gas production, which was a popular theme throughout the night. He said the Earth will be less clean because of the restrictions and “the American people will be poorer and weaker” as other countries continue to produce oil and gas.

He and many other speakers also touted the virtues of smaller government.

“You want most of government close to home, close to where you are. Because when we follow the restrictions on government, those that are put in place by our constitution, we unlock unlimited human potential, allowing you to do what you do best,” Lee said. “That's why you're here. You love your family. You love your community. You love your country. Thank you for serving.”

U.S. House candidates took the stage next.

Rep. Blake Moore talked about his work on the FIRESHEDS Act, a piece of legislation he sponsored that he said was modeled on the successful fire prevention work done locally.

Moore recalled the Parleys Canyon Fire and complimented the community’s response. He said he called local leaders for hours, only to be told there wasn’t much he could do.

“I can come up, I can do anything. What do you need? What do you need from our team? And they’re like, you know what? We've got it handled. We're pretty good. We're gonna have about nine people staying overnight,” Moore said. “And I go, so am I bringing bagels in the morning? Like the Congressman's going to bring up bagels? She's like, yeah, that'd be great. Called me back a few hours later. Hey, guess what? These people all found homes.”

Rep. John Curtis said, to mild laughter, that some in Washington were comparing President Biden to former President Jimmy Carter — and Carter didn’t like it. He touted his work starting a coalition that now includes 75 Republican members of congress to counter the narrative that Republicans don’t care about the environment.

He said natural gas produced in the United States burns much cleaner than fuel from Russia, and that the U.S. shouldn’t be dependent on “an enemy” for fuel.

“Joe Biden has got to get Venezuela, Iran and Russia off of his speed dial and put on Utah,” Curtis said.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson touted the Cox administration’s work in cutting taxes, supporting gun rights and fighting the federal vaccine mandate. Henderson also called energy independence a matter of national security.

In other business, the county party nominated Holly McClure and John “Jack” Murphy to be the party’s candidates in two county council races. The two were running unopposed in the party, but will face challenges in the general election in November. County delegates also elected Karen Ballash as chair of the party.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.