Death of Justice Antonin Scalia dominates focus of Lincoln Day dinner

Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams speaks about the federal government and public lands in front of the Iron County GOP at this year's Lincoln Day Dinner, Cedar City, Utah, February 13, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – Several Republican leaders used their speaking time Saturday during the Iron County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner to honor U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia whose death Saturday marked the end of the high court’s conservative majority.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia listens to President Bush speak during a swearing-in ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. File: Washington, D.C., June 7, 2006 | AP Photo by Ron Edmonds, St. George News
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia listens to President Bush speak during a swearing-in ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington. On Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, the U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that Scalia has died at the age of 79. File: Washington, D.C., June 7, 2006 | AP Photo by Ron Edmonds, St. George News

In front of more than 150 party loyalists from throughout the state, keynote speaker Sen. Mike Lee gave a glimpse of who Scalia was by sharing anecdotes of the justice’s time on the bench and his often controversial and provocative rulings.

“Justice Scalia truly revolutionized judging in America and he revolutionized a love of and respect for the constitution in ways that really cannot be overstated,” the senator said.

Lee credited Scalia for never being afraid to stand for the truth, elaborating:

People called him crazy. For a long time he was a lone dissenter. In fact, he kind of pioneered the modern-day dissent in the United States Supreme Court because Justice Scalia was not afraid to stand for the truth. He was not afraid to stand alone. He was not afraid to stand for the truth or to stand alone even in doing so, even when, especially when, he would be subjected to public scorn and humiliation and ridicule.

Scalia was good friends with Lee’s father, giving the senator an opportunity to know him on a personal level.

“He loved his children more than anything else in life and he loved his wife Maureen,” he said. “They were dedicated parents.”

The Lincoln Day Dinner is a semi-formal annual benefit organized by the Iron County Republicans to help raise money for the party. This year, the dinner was held on Southern Utah University’s campus inside the Hunter Conference Center.

Potential candidates can also use the opportunity of the dinner to campaign for the upcoming election although this year there were only about six candidates on site.

Among those allowed to speak at the dinner were: state Auditor John Dougall, state Sen. Evan Vickers, Attorney General Sean Reyes and Congressman Chris Stewart.

Stewart opened his speech recognizing the contributions Scalia, 79, brought to the high court.

“The nation has suffered a great loss today and my heart breaks for our country at the passing of Judge Scalia,” he said.

Stewart also shared his concerns about President Barack Obama nominating someone to fill his spot. Scalia was appointed by Ronald Reagan and represented the conservative voice.

“I’m fearful about the great legal battle that we’re going to see come about and to tear our nation apart even more than it has been so far,” Stewart said. “But my heavens, we cannot allow this president to appoint a judge that will replace Judge Scalia with someone this president would approve of.”

While expressing worry about the state of the country, Stewart’s speech still ended on a high note affirming a strong future for America. He said:

We live in a dangerous world and we can’t ignore these things.

But I would end with this thought. I think the greatest impediment we face is the lack of faith we have in our future now. But I’m telling you this country is not over. I do not see the demise of this nation and as long as people, like you, are willing to fight for this country, then we can preserve this country and we can preserve the American dream. It is not easy, but it’s not up to us to decide when that is over.

Keep fighting heed to what Abraham Lincoln said, ‘We are the last, best hope on earth.’ That is still true. God bless you all. God Bless the United States of America.

A straw poll, given to those in attendance, showed the Republican group at the Saturday event appeared to largely support presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The leading candidate of the night, Cruz received triple the votes of Marco Rubio, who came in number two with Donald Trump trailing behind. The candidates coming in after those were as follows: Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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