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County GOP won’t apologize for arrests at May convention

SHARE County GOP won’t apologize for arrests at May convention

For the third time in a month, the Salt Lake County Republican Party has refused to give the Utah Republican Assembly a formal apology for an incident that occurred at the county convention May 18.

While the matter of an apology is dead, the county party hasn't heard the last of the URA.At the Saturday central committee meeting, Senate chairmen were elected in the 13 state Senate districts that are within the county, and true to their promise to have more influence in Republican Party politics, a number of URA members and/or supporters were elected in those 13 races.

"I don't want to say how many, I don't know for sure. But certainly they won some of those races," Bill Quist, Salt Lake County GOP chair-man, said Monday morning.

A week ago Don Ruzicka, co-chairman and founder of the URA, told the newspaper that his group sought more influence in Utah Republican politics, and part of that influence would be to replace or reform local and state party leaders, using party elections as part of that process.

While Senate chairs are picked in election years, most party officers - chairman, vice chairman and so on - are elected in off years. Those elections come in the spring of 1999.

URA has been seeking a formal apology from the Salt Lake County Republican Party for an incident at the county convention where Tom Draschil, URA co-founder with Ruzicka, was arrested along with another URA member for refusing a police order to stop passing out literature on Salt Palace grounds, site of the convention.

The county GOP has a rule that people have to pay a booth rental fee of $300 to pass out literature. The fee was needed to pay for the convention, said Quist, and most candidates and GOP groups paid it.

Draschil claimed First Amendment rights of free speech and refused to stop passing out the material - part of which was a flier about the URA, part of which was a resolution that the URA wanted introduced at the convention. Ultimately the resolution was passed out and approved by county GOP delegates.

Police arrested Draschil for disobeying a police order and trespassing. He's been charged with a misdemeanor by city prosecutors and awaits trial.

"They (the URA) wanted total capitulation by the (county) party" in the apology, Quist said. "(Saturday) was the third time (county party leaders) have voted it down. It was strictly a propaganda move on their part and most of the central committee members (maybe 100 showed up) saw that. They only got 15 votes" for the apology, Quist said.