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John Daley ReportingAn intra-party fight comes to a head tonight for Salt Lake County Republicans. The party's central committee meets to decide whether to oust an outspoken member. That party leader is best known for speaking out over the way Republicans replaced Mayor Nancy Workman when she quit her re-election race.
The man on the hot seat is central committee member Mike Ridgway. His defenders see him as a tireless advocate for reform, but others in the party regard him as antagonistic obstructionist.
Mike Ridgway, Central Committee Member: “There is a lot of heat that is applied in the republican party in Utah to people who buck the party line."
Ridgway has frequently tangled with party leadership over rules and election policies. Then when Mayor Nancy Workman's troubles made news, his dissident status drew the spotlight. Workman dropped out of her re-election race claiming stress from her legal problems "disabled" her from staying in.
Republicans moved to replace her on the ballot with high-profile developer Ellis Ivory. Ridgway supported Ivory, but sharply criticized the ethics of replacing Workman's name on the ballot, calling her doctor's note, “what a dubious claim of medical or mental disability at best.”
Ridgway's outspoken position seems to have been the final straw. In a letter party officials accused him of hurting the organization and injuring its good name of misrepresentation, abusive behavior to party members, and maligning the intentions and reputations of the party to the media.
The party's chair says the attempt to drop Ridgway is due to "repeated wrongful behavior", not a move to silence dissent.
Tiani Coleman, Chair/Republican Central Committee: "Our party really is a big tent party. We have wide views, very diverse opinions and at most meetings people are able to express their opinions."
Ridgway says he and his supporters consider themselves watchdogs of the process.
Mike Ridgway, Central Committee Member: "We'd like to see the party follow its rules. We'd like the rules to be fair."
Tonight the central committee will try to determine if allegations against Ridgway are valid and serious, if so what to do about it.
That meeting is tonight at 7:00 in the Salt Lake County government complex.