United Utah Party threatens to sue to get on the ballot

Posted at 2:43 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 16:43:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The United Utah Party is threatening a lawsuit against the state of Utah to get on the ballot.

It’s the latest legal threat that has the potential to derail the upcoming special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The newly formed centrist party is fuming over the Lt. Governor’s Office not allowing its candidate, Jim Bennett, to file to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat soon to be vacated by Chaffetz. The party submitted 2,000 signatures to become a certified party. The next day, Bennett tried to file to run on the ballot under the new party.

Leaders of the United Utah Party file signatures in the Lt. Governor’s Office to become a registered political party. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

In an emailed statement to FOX 13, United Utah Party Chairman Richard Davis said Republican candidates Tanner Ainge and John Curtis submitted more signatures, but were easily allowed onto the ballot.

“The message could not be clearer. The Utah Elections Office does not want us on the ballot. They do not want us competing. They have abused their power and violated the U.S. Constitution and Utah statutes by treating us in this manner. That’s why we have reluctantly concluded that we must sue for our rights and the rights of Utah voters to choose our candidates,” Davis wrote.

Davis later told FOX 13 the party was expected to file a lawsuit next week against the state. State elections director Mark Thomas did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

If filed, it would be the second lawsuit over the special election. Chia-Chi Teng, a Brigham Young University professor, sued the state in an attempt to get on the ballot while he is away in China on business. A state judge ruled against him and he dropped the lawsuit rather than file an emergency appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Utah Republican and Democratic parties plan to pick their candidates to replace Chaffetz at Saturday conventions.