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Longtime Republican dissident loses first court battle in quest to unseat automatic delegates

SHARE Longtime Republican dissident loses first court battle in quest to unseat automatic delegates

A judge on Tuesday blocked an attempt by a Republican to force his party to follow party rules.

Judge Glenn Iwasaki of the 3rd District Court denied Mike Ridgway a temporary restraining order to stop the state and Salt Lake County Republican Party from appointing so-called "automatic delegates" to vote at the county and state conventions.

Delegates wield a lot of political power, because they decide which two candidates in a race advance to the primary or, if 60 percent or more support one candidate, make them the party nominee in the general election.

But Ridgway isn't giving up yet.

"I have no choice in my mind but to continue to press forward," Ridgway said shortly after the denial.

He said he will continue to push the court to stop the state and county Republican parties from "consistently" violating party rules against appointed delegates. Ridgway has challenged the practice at both state and party conventions for years.

Ridgway is already preparing for a future win. He is urging all Republicans attending caucuses tonight to vote on an extra state and county delegate, so everything is cleared up before state and county GOP conventions in May.

If a judge eventually rules in his favor, 58 precincts would get to vote for one more county and state delegate, he said.

Ridgway said the local automatic delegates are worse than the "travesty" the Democratic Party has with super delegates, who can vote for any presidential candidate without regards for which candidate Utah Democrats support.

"In the Republican Party, it's not just a travesty, it's unethical because the bylaws don't let them do it," Ridgway said.

Party leaders believe they aren't breaking any rules. The state party constitution leaves delegate allocation up to the county parties, Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman James Evans said.

Salt Lake County's appointed delegates are all elected in some form or another. Most are the Republican elected officials, like the county surveyor and GOP legislators. Other appointed delegates include the county party officers and executive committee members.

For that, Evans said that none of these so-called "automatic delegates" are given a free ticket to vote as a delegate.

"You run in different ways, but you have to go through some kind of contest," Evans said in a previous interview. "So we're all elected."

Ridgway said just because elected officials get a government paycheck "do not give people automatic delegate status under state party rules."

In the past, Ridgway said Republican party leaders and elected officials did not get automatic delegate status, and it shouldn't be any different now.

"When you start giving perks to high-level important people you corrupt the process," Ridgway said. "If you can't even choose your own representative to the state Legislature, because that choice is already made for you by party leaders ... then why do we live in America?"

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com