The Utah Republican Party elected new leadership during its in-person organizing convention on Saturday at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.

Carson Jorgensen and Jordan Hess were elected by state delegates as chair and vice chair of the Utah GOP, respectively. Jorgensen replaces Derek Brown, who had served as chair since being elected in May 2019.

Jorgensen is a sixth-generation sheep rancher from Mount Pleasant, where he and his family also farm hundreds of acres of alfalfa hay, wheat and barley, according to Jorgensen’s campaign website.

“Carson works on the ranch nearly every day,” his campaign website said, “in between running his small business, producing high-quality bridles that are shipped worldwide.”

Jorgensen, who unsuccessfully ran against U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, in the 2nd Congressional District race in 2020, spoke in a campaign video about the importance of unifying Republicans in different parts of Utah.

“We need to bridge this divide between rural and urban in the state,” the Sanpete County Republican said in the April 16 video.

But Jorgensen warned of another divide within the Republican Party, one that he called “something that’s going to be a challenge for us going forward.”

“I don’t think we should make it about people,” he said. “Too often politics becomes about one person in particular, we don’t like that person, we don’t like their attitude, and then we’re turned off towards them. I’m more looking towards policy right now. We need to rally around policy, because that’s something we can all get behind regardless of personality. And that is a big problem inside of the party right now.”

That divide within the Utah GOP was exemplified on Saturday when some Republican delegates booed both U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Gov. Spencer Cox.

Later in the evening, delegates considered a measure to censure Romney for his votes at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trials. The measure narrowly failed on a 798-711 vote.

Stewart Peay, former chair of the Utah County Republican Party who was replaced by Skyler Beltran in April, advanced to the second round in the race to chair the state GOP but ultimately lost to Jorgensen.

In an April 7 campaign video, Peay talked about his successes in the two years he chaired the Utah County GOP, including increasing voter turnout in the 4th Congressional District race in 2020 and helping elect Republican Rep. Burgess Owens.

“In Utah County, we worked hard to build consensus around many difficult challenges,” said Peay. “These efforts have resulted in a unified party, and every person that represents Utah County today is a Republican.”

Peay’s running mate was Austin Cox, a political campaign manager who ran Spencer Cox’s successful gubernatorial run in 2020.

“With nearly 10 years of experience campaigning in Utah, I know what it takes to win,” the vice chair candidate said in a campaign video.

Peay drew fire from Jorgensen last week over an endorsement letter from Spencer Cox that Jorgensen said made it appear as if the party itself was endorsing Peay.

Republican delegates also elected Olivia Dawn Horlacher as party secretary and re-elected Mike Bird as treasurer on Saturday.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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