Four Cache County Republican leaders who attended the weekend’s state party convention say they did not support the widely reported booing and heckling of Sen. Mitt Romney, even though none of them agreed with Romney’s controversial vote against Donald Trump in the ex-president’s January impeachment trial.
Some Cache County delegates reportedly were among those loudly interrupting the senator’s planned speech at the convention, but The Herald Journal has been unable to identify who those individuals were for the purposes of getting perspectives from both sides in the incident. A number of phone calls to local Republicans on Monday were not returned.
“Really only about 10 to 15 percent of the delegates were booing. They were just really, really loud. It wasn’t a majority as some media outlets have made it out to be,” Cache GOP Chair Chris Booth said.
Nevertheless, what Booth heard and saw disappointed him, and after the display he posted a message on the local party’s Facebook page to express his displeasure.
“On a sour note, there were some who felt it necessary to boo Senator Romney. Shame on them for behaving in such a deplorable manner,” Booth wrote. “As Reagan once said, ‘There is peace in strength.’ That strength comes through UNITY within our Party! Yes there are different ideologies with the Republican Party BUT we ALL have an R behind our name. I encourage us to be proud Americans first and Republicans second!”
Following Saturday’s speech, a Republican resolution to “censure” Romney for his stand on Trump failed in a 798-711 vote. Booth voted for censure, and he thinks the measure might have passed had it not been for a collective shock caused by the booing. Fellow Cache Republican Gina Worthen counts herself among those shaken by the behavior, which led her to abstain from voting on the resolution.
“I agreed with a lot of it (the arguments against Romney), but I didn’t agree that censure was an effective way, especially after the booing,” said Worthen, a member of the Cache County Council who serves as the Cache Republicans’ bylaws chair. “It was really embarrassing. I’m a strong believer in decorum. I understand the feelings of the delegates and why they are unhappy with Sen. Romney, but there are better ways and more effective ways to show disagreement than to boo.”
Cache GOP Vice Chair Shellie Giddings voted against censure, but not out of support for Romney and not necessarily in reaction to the boos, though she found the behavior of “a few people” inappropriate.
“Let me start with this. I am not a Romney fan. I don’t agree with a lot of the things that’s he’s done,” Giddings said, “… but if we were going to censure him, we should have done it immediately. I think six months later it’s just too late. He doesn’t care. It’s not going to do any good. Let’s just move on, and if you’re not happy with him, then don’t vote for him next time.”
Giddings suggested that a better way for delegates to express their displeasure with Romney would have been to walk out during his talk instead of booing and interrupting him.
Longtime Cache Republican delegate Clair Ellis — who also voted against censure despite misgivings about Romney — offered another alternative to censure: official reprimand. He saw censure as too grave of an action that could ultimately be hurtful to the party, while reprimand would have accomplished as much without repercussions.
Like his fellow Cache Republicans, Ellis deemed only about 10 to 20 percent of the delegates were booing and heckling Romney, but the behavior upset him enough to take a countermeasure when the ruckus began.
“I wasn’t planning to give Mitt any outstanding applause beyond the normal respectful applause, but the guy right next to me was booing, so I stood up and gave him a standing applause just to offset that. I really think booing can have a counterproductive effect,” he said.
Giddings said the booing hurt what to that point had been a very motivational event for her, starting with a salute to two World War II veterans, a stirring rendition of the national anthem and a well-produced party video.
“It was one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to," she said. "It was so well done, it was so inspiring, people were happy to be back together again, and then that happened. … The disrespect shown for Sen. Romney I think was just uncalled for, no matter how you feel, no matter what you think about his politics, I still think people deserve respect.”