WEST VALLEY CITY (AP) — The Utah Republican convention is being roiled by internal party quarrels that have delegates shouting and booing.
The rules disagreements Saturday come amid ongoing contention over a new law that allows candidates to bypass conventions on their way to the primary ballot by gathering signatures instead.
The debate among core party members lasted more than hour and delayed voting on nominees for races including U.S. Senate, where former presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a contender.
He is among the candidates who have opted to gather signatures, securing his place on the ballot. He’s also seeking support from party delegates at the convention.
Supporters say signature-gathering helps more people get involved in the process, and it’s been used by more-moderate candidates to win races even if they lose at convention.
Conservative critics say the measure undermines the state’s caucus-and-convention system.
Michelle Cluff is hoping that Romney becomes Utah’s next Republican Senate nominee.
The 31-year-old delegate from the Salt Lake City suburb of Riverton said during her party’s state convention Saturday that a divisive “brawl” of a primary would break out if Romney lost to one of his lesser-known opponents.
“Policy-wise, there’s very little distinguishing them,” said the stay-at-home mother of three. She walked around the convention grounds in suburban Salt Lake City while pushing her four-month-old baby in a stroller. “And Mitt Romney can actually go in and make things happen.”
“Romney is ready to hit the ground running,” she said.
The former presidential nominee is facing off against nearly a dozen opponents in the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Hatch gave brief remarks to the state Republican convention in suburban Salt Lake City Saturday, thanking the state that sent him to the Senate for 41 years. His retirement comes none too soon for some party loyalists who feared that he might break a promise not to seek an eighth term.
Hatch steps down paving the way for Romney to take his place. Romney is Hatch’s hand-picked successor. Hatch did not offer any endorsement for Romney during his brief convention remarks.
Not everyone at Utah’s Republican Party convention is eager to give Romney the party’s nomination for Senate.
Marianne Henderson is wearing a T-shirt for State Rep. Mike Kennedy, a doctor who is challenging Romney on Saturday.
Romney represents “a different brand of Republicanism” says Henderson, who is a 57-year-old retiree and delegate from the town of Alpine 25 miles south of Salt Lake City. She says that Kennedy is more fiscally conservative and holds “conservative principles.”
Matthew Green takes issue with health care reforms Romney oversaw as governor of Massachusetts. He believes Romney is too willing to spend government money.
The 44-year-old doctor from the Provo suburb of Highland would also like to see Kennedy win the nomination. But he’s prepared for Romney to win anyway, given his campaign’s deep pockets and national name recognition.
Written by the Associated Press.
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