Utah Republican Party chairman James Evans addressed the media today about inflammatory comments made by Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Chad Bennion. Evans’ comments come more than a week after Bennion first said that District Attorney Sim Gill might be a cop hater and then helped promote a rally aimed against him.
While Utah GOP chairman James Evans didn’t explicitly criticize Chad Bennion for his actions, he did everything he could to direct attention away from them. He says that Bennion’s use of the phrase “cop hater” was unfortunate and distracted the public from the actual issue.
“I would not have made the comments in the way that he had made them," he says. "I think that’s a fair statement. To be inflammatory gets you off the message that you’re trying to make or raise the issue that you’re trying to raise”
Evans’ also disagreed with Bennion’s decision to advertise an anti-Sim Gill rally last week. The gathering was a response to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s ruling that two West Valley City Police officers were unjustified in the shooting death of Danielle Willard. When asked his opinion about the case, Evans says politicians should generally stay out of matters involving police procedure and the use of force.
“What I think or don’t think as chair of the Republican Party should not weigh in on something of that magnitude, because you’re talking about a decision based on an action that resulted in death,” he says.
Evans says the law enforcement community, the legal community, and their stakeholders are the people that are ultimately responsible for resolving those kinds of issues. But Evans didn’t completely dismiss Bennion’s criticism that Gill is too tough on cops and too light on criminals. He just says now isn’t the right time to raise those issues.
“My approach is simply that we will look at Sim Gill’s record, you know, during the election season and see, does his record stand up to that particular point of view,” he says.
Evans has only been the Utah GOP chairman since April when party delegates elected him to succeed Thomas Wright at the state Republican organizing convention.