CHARACTER & LEADERSHIP
Monday, May 6, 2013
James Evans is a former Salt Lake County Chair and State Senator who along with Aaron Gabrielson and Marco Diaz are running for Chair of the Utah Republican Party. Evans is a self-described “conservative” (Facebook). Elections are now less than two weeks away on May 18th.
VOTING RECORD—SPONSORED BILLSOne of the strongest indicators of one’s political views is one’s voting record and Evans had a term as a State Senator during 2003-4. An examination of his voting record is much more insightful into Evans’ political leanings rather than a trite label of "conservative." In a careful examination of all of Evans sponsored bills as a Senator there are a number of bills which seem rather neutral, but I find none that in my estimation I would consider fiscally conservative, that is tending towards any of the following: reducing government spending, lowering taxes or fees, reducing government regulation and bureaucracy, or reduction of bonds and debt.
Conversely, there were four that egregiously seemed to stand out as antithetical to fiscal conservatism:
· (2003) SB129 Criteria in Awarding Bids Failed to pass, but attempted to restrict government contracts over $100K to companies with 15+ employees, an apprenticeship program, and health insurance. More unnecessary regulation and anti-small-business.
· (2003) SB140 Prescription Drug Assistance Program More regulations for pharmacies to require promotion of public freeloading on drug programs.
· (2004) SB135 Center for Multicultural Health, with help from Democrat House member David Litvack, this appropriated $100K for a pork-barrel style spending for the creation of an unneeded Multicultural Health Center. In 2011 the legislature incorporated the Center into the Utah Office of Health Disparities while the appropriation was continued.
· (2004) SB230 Reading Achievement Program Evans tried to appropriate $30 million, but in the fourth substitute successfully appropriated $15 million for a new reading program.
SB230 was in my estimation the most damaging of all the Evans-sponsored bills. It grew the public education bureaucracy without accountability and is a classic case of money being thrown at education and hoping it stuck. Additionally, it also authorized school districts to raise property taxes for this program so yes, it is fair to say that everyone including Evans who voted for SB230 voted to both increase spending and raise taxes.
In a peer review by the US Dept of Education the lack of program accountability was exposed:
"Although the overall objective of the state’s K–3 Reading Improvement Program is to ensure that all Utah third graders “read at or above grade level,” this term and its measurement have not been specifically defined."In other words, we threw $15M at reading without ever defining a measurable goal. The report concluded:
"After the implementing legislation was passed in 2004, the K–3 Reading Improvement Program was immediately embraced, with all 40 of the state’s school districts signing on. As a result, no control group exists for comparison, and it is impossible to contrast participants and nonparticipants. Thus, any relationship subsequently identified between the program and student achievement outcomes is correlational at best and does not imply that the program caused the results."While I grant Evans freedom to use whatever label he desires in describing his ideology, based on the purest form of measurability we have--bills Evans voluntarily sponsored and initiated--I can see no iota of fiscal conservatism or financial restraint from his actions as a Utah State Senator with which I would ever voluntarily apply the term to him.
VOTING RECORD IN GENERALA pair of conservative Utah watchdog groups compiled their own measurements of Evan’s record which examined not only bills Evans sponsored but his record as a whole:
· Grassroots.org in 2004 ranked Evans third-from-bottom GOP lifetime.
· UT Taxpayers Association in 2004 named Evans in a list of ten most Liberal Republicans. They also ranked Evans below average in 2004 with a 69% vs. an average GOP 71%.
During this time as Chair, Evans compiled a lengthy list pointing to a person of irascible character and tactics in dealing with his opposition.
· Evans played the race card in 2006 asking the SLC council to censure SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson of a “racial remark” when the Mayor used the term “slavish” to describe partisan, blind obedience to leaders including Evans who supported policies in violation of fundamental human rights. (Deseret News) Funny, I feel Obamacare is slavish, yet I love the skin color of our President.
· Evans pushed a heavily edited video on the media right before the Sheriff’s race in 2006 to imply the Democrat candidate wanted to “do an ass-kicking or shoot someone” when in reality the Sheriff was trying to model bad behavior. (KSL) The tactic backfired and the Democrat won in a landslide as a result of Evans’ lie to the public. (SLTribune)
· Longtime Utah GOP activist and former candidate Mike Ridgway demonstrates with recorded documentation that Evans played a role in lying to police to get Ridgway arrested. (YouTube)
· Evans filed a frivolous complaint to the IRS asking for removal of the NAACP’s tax-exempt status after the NAACP protested certain remarks of GOP Senator Buttars and expressed interest in seeing his defeat in an election. One blogger correctly predicted that “zero, zilch, nada” would become of Evans' complaint and quoted the law that such organizations “may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.” The blogger identified the impression left on the community as the result of Evans' frivolity: “[Republican] gutter politics” (WCForum)
· In the rumor & gossip column it has been speculated rather humorously that those who removed all of a major Democrat candidate’s signage in a single night had ties to Evans (One Utah). Certainly there does not seem to have been any offer on the Salt Lake County Republican Party to help compensate their Democratic counterparts for the theft of their property (signs).There are definitely more complaints registered about the character of Evans available for discovery on the internet and traditional media; I have tried to sample the flavor rather than provide an exhaustive list. In contrast to Evans’ leadership style is that of outgoing current Chair Thomas Wright. Wright has publicly made a point to extend graciousness and exhibited a sense of fairness towards his Democratic counterpart Chair Jim Dabakis in avoiding ad hominem attacks. While I do not regard Wright without flaw, going from Wright to Evans in the area of character would be moving the Party in the wrong direction.
MEASURABLE RESULTSWhile political philosophy and character are important, the bottom line for some is: can Evans get Republicans elected? Obviously philosophy is important because if one is viewed as not conforming to Republican values, it will be hard to motivate the party to do the work. Likewise if someone is viewed either internally or externally as of a bombastic or bulldoggish character people will not be attracted to such behavior. So what results did Evans’ style as Salt Lake County Chair produce?
After three years of Evans, the 2008 election was a disaster for Salt Lake elections. A Democrat President won Salt Lake county for the first time in memory while picking up a trio of Utah House seats in Sandy and a Senate seat while the GOP challenger to County Mayor was defeated. The Salt Lake council whom Evans had lobbied over “Rocky-gate” picked up a seat flipping to majority Democrat. (SLTribune)
CONCLUSIONSome supporters have claimed Evans is a new man. I have not seen this. I have not seen apologies go out to the people who Evans has lied about or persecuted. Nor I have witnessed any involvement in Evans in working towards a changed attitude about adopting fiscal conservatism. I believe with such a deep-rooted past record—one which Evans himself touts—I would need to see irrefutable, tangible evidence of changed philosophy, character, and results over a documented period of time before I could accept such dubious claims of a new Evans.