Utah Republicans elected former state legislator James Evans to lead the state GOP. Evans is the first African-American to hold the post.
Outside of politics, Evans is the owner of Checkline, a payday loan franchise. Going into the convention, he had support from Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and other state lawmakers in his bid for party chairman. During his speech at the GOP organizing convention, Evans showcased his experience and his ability to successfully market GOP values.
"I’m a former Republican state senator from a district that was sixty-five percent Democrat. I won that district by knocking on more than two thousand doors myself and convincing unaffiliated voters why the Republican was the better choice," says Evans.
Evans defeated his opponents Aaron Gabrielson and Marco Diaz in one round with fifty nine percent of the vote. His predecessor, Thomas Wright spoke about reaching out to immigrant, minority and gay communities. Evans, who is the first African American to lead the Utah GOP, says Republican principles should appeal to more people.
"Our Republican message is universal. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, your gender, your race, your sexual orientation. I mean if you want smaller government, if you want to be in charge of your life, you know if you want to be left alone on your own property, if you want to be there for your family, those are Republican values and they’re translatable across every spectrum. So what we have to is make sure that every spectrum understands our values and then I’m confident they’ll be more inclined to want to participate," says Evans.
In the race for vice-chair, former Washington County GOP Chair, Willie Billings defeated Rick Votaw in a second round vote. Billings told delegates in his second speech that he’s tired of some areas of the state being underrepresented in the party.
"I know it’s been over twenty years since somebody from rural or southern Utah has represented this state party. This is not just a Wasatch Front party. It’s a Utah state party!” said Billings
Michelle Mumford was elected party secretary and Dave Crittenden ran unopposed for Treasurer.