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Defeated Utah County candidate may sue GOP

Improprieties alleged by Bramble’s opponent

SHARE Defeated Utah County candidate may sue GOP

PROVO — Jackie deGaston isn't ready to say she lost to Sen. Curt Bramble at the Utah County Republican Convention 10 days ago.

The senator for Provo defeated deGaston soundly, 67 percent to 33. By gathering a supermajority of more than 60 percent, Utah's Senate majority leader eliminated deGaston and avoided the need for a primary race, advancing directly to the November general election.

But deGaston is considering filing a lawsuit to ask a judge to force delegates to convene again and vote a second time or toss out their votes altogether and declare a runoff at the June primary.

"Like a doctor would call in a specialist, I'm an attorney calling in a specialist," deGaston said Tuesday by telephone while traveling in California. "Next week I'll sit down with an elections law specialist, and we'll decide whether to file a lawsuit."

DeGaston did send a complaint to the Utah County Republican Party on Monday in the format of a legal complaint, though it isn't one. In it, she accuses party leadership again of conspiring to aid Bramble's re-election. Among others, she names party chairwoman Marian Monnahan and party secretary Susie Bramble, the senator's wife.

Monnahan turned the complaint over to Utah Senate President John Valentine, himself a Utah County Republican who is an attorney she regularly consults about campaign law. Valentine endorsed Bramble during the election.

DeGaston's complaint alleged that:

• No official roll call of delegates was conducted before the delegates voted in Senate District 16 at the convention on April 26.

• The ballot box was not shown to be empty before voting began.

• Ballots were cast into the boxes without proof of proper credentials.

• The ballot box was removed from the room without being accompanied by deGaston's poll watcher.

The meeting opened the convention at 8 a.m. At 8:45, deGaston voted in a House district race where county party officials required delegates to file one by one to the box and produce their credentials.

"Why would the party do things one way at 8 a.m. and another way at 8:45 a.m.?" deGaston said. "It was a circus in the auditorium where our vote was held. It's ridiculous."

Monnahan said deGaston's complaints of misconduct and conflict of interest are unfounded. She said the delegates checked in at a front desk and received an envelope with specific ballots for their races.

"Nobody outside District 16 could have gotten a District 16 ballot," she said. "We knew exactly who didn't pick up packets, and in no case were there more ballots cast than the number of ballots distributed. There was no ballot-box stuffing."

Monnahan also said deGaston's poll watcher was not present during the vote. Monnahan took the tardy poll watcher to the room where ballots were being cast after she was informed the poll watcher had arrived but wasn't overseeing the count.

"I've never seen anybody cheat or try to be unfair," Monnahan said.

DeGaston also resurrected her complaint about the delegate status of Hannah Lockhart, the 17-year-old daughter of Utah Republican Party Chairman Stan Lockhart and Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo.

State law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote, but they cannot vote in a primary or general election until they turn 18. Young Lockhart will be 18 in the week before the general election on Nov. 4.

County Republican bylaws allow those who will be 18 by the general election to vote in caucuses and run for office as delegates. Delegates are allowed to vote at the county party convention.

Part of the issue is whether Lockhart properly registered to vote in the right precinct because she moved.

DeGaston wants an investigation launched to see if Lockhart's registration broke a state law. Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert's office, which runs the state Office of Elections, would not oversee a legal complaint about registration fraud, said Joe Demma, Herbert's chief of staff.

That would fall to the staff of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff or Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman. Buhman said he hadn't been asked to look into it. Attoney general spokesman Paul Murphy sent an inquiry to staffers to see if they had been contacted.

Monnahan said another complaint, filed by Linda Housekeeper, who lost by a supermajority like deGaston, probably will be heard in a hearing next week. Key party officials are out of town this week.

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com