SALT LAKE CITY — A new group of Utah Republicans says it wants party leaders to speak up when GOP officials stray from good morals and ethics.
Character First, formed last week, says its sights are broader than just the White House.
"We feel there’s kind of a crisis of character in the party and in the country," said group organizer Sven Wilson. "This isn’t an anti-Trump movement, per se. It’s more about, let’s take our concerns and try to send a positive message."
The group is recruiting delegates and others statewide to sign an online pledge that they will support only candidates who uphold strong values in their public and private lives, including honesty, kindness, patience, civility and self-sacrifice. The organization had five members as of Friday, Wilson said.
It was born out of Republican caucuses on Tuesday night in Provo, when attendees in Provo's Precinct 16 made Wilson a state delegate after he told them decency in politics was most important. The platform was informed by his Mormon faith.
"We're told to select people to lead us who are good and wise and honest, and I shared that with the people in the room. And they seemed to be pretty receptive to it, so the next morning I got up and thought OK, what's the next step?"
Wilson believes U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, who is also Mormon, has set a good example with vocal criticism of the president.
The new group's concerns span "all levels of government," Wilson said. He is dismayed by President Donald Trump's "fundamental character issues," though he didn't specify unseemly traits or decisions by the president.
He also was troubled by widespread Republican support for Alabama's unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of sexual misconduct; by allegations that former Utah state Rep. Jon Stanard arranged a tryst with a prostitute in a hotel room paid for by taxpayers; and by sexual harassment accusations levied at Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves.
Wilson said he believes several state delegates, who vote to select candidates at the party's conventions to run in primary and general elections, as well as county delegates, feel similarly. Wilson also is a political science professor at BYU but said his role with the group is separate.
Asked if he was planning to fill out the pledge form, Utah GOP Chairman Rob Anderson said he didn't have enough information and hadn't met with the group yet.