Summer Pugh thought she was in a GOP primary race with fellow Republican Dave Hogue in state House District 52 in Riverton. But she's not, county GOP officials say.
At the April 27 Salt Lake County Republican Convention, it was announced that Pugh got 36 percent of the vote to Hogue's 64 percent and they would face each other in the June 25 primary. It takes 70 percent of the delegate vote in a district to pick a nominee and avoid a primary.But since then, GOP county officers have recounted the votes and say she fell short and that Hogue has 70.8 percent of the delegate vote and there's no primary.
Hogue and Rep. Mont Evans, R-Riverton - who holds the seat now - had questions at the convention about the results and pushed for an investigation.
According to Pugh, first she was told by county chair Tom Colemere that some people voted who shouldn't have, then that extra ballots had shown up. Finally, says Pugh, she was told that the ballot box had been reopened and that a recount showed that Hogue had 70 percent.
Colemere and the county party have hired an attorney and Colemere isn't talking. James Lund, the party's attorney, said a recount of the ballot box indeed does show that Hogue got 70 percent of the vote. "The county party will certify that Dave Hogue is the nominee. There will be no primary," says Lund.
That leaves Pugh stunned and angry. "There (have) been so many stories that I've been told, one thing and another, that I don't know what to believe."
Pugh declined to attend a meeting Wednesday night where Colemere, Lund and others recounted the ballots and tried to put together the chain of events that led to the mistake. "We're sorry. There's nothing we can do to satisfy Ms. Pugh and still be fair" to Hogue, who won, says Lund.
"This is a mess. It has been handled so poorly, so unprofessionally. I think we need a primary election. At least that will be a clean vote and settle this once and for all," says Pugh.
The Legislature deregulated political party operations several years ago. Under the old law, county clerks prepared party convention ballots and the state helped pay the cost of state and county political conventions. With that oversight, there were clear regulations on how political conventions were conducted.
That's gone this year, and state and county officials had nothing to do with how party's pick their nominees at convention. In addition, GOP leaders decided there would be multiple ballots in their conventions, and Pugh's race had two ballots. The deregulation combined with multiple ballots made some county conventions - certainly the state convention - much more hectic and complicated.
"We simply take the party's official candidate certifications and put the names on the primary ballot," says Deputy Salt Lake County Clerk Nick Floros. "We have nothing else to do with it." Thus, whatever names the county Republican Party sends to the clerk will be on the ballot, and Pugh won't be on the ballot.
Pugh is suspicious over the "recount" in part because Hogue is Evans' personally picked replacement. In fact, during the April 17 special legislative session, Evans, who is running for the state Senate this year, was introducing Hogue to House colleagues as his replacement.
Pugh said she's considering court action but also wants to be fair in how she handles what's happened.