Judge rules Bangerter is not eligible for lieutenant governor race

May 3, 2024, 4:50 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge ruled Friday that Layne Bangerter is not eligible to run for lieutenant governor and will deny a restraining order to pause printing ballots.

Bangerter is the running mate of Rep. Phil Lyman, who is running for governor.

“I’ll pick another running mate. We’re obviously disappointed,” Lyman told reporters immediately following that decision.

“It’s disappointing but we’ll abide by the judges decision and move forward with what this campaign brings,” Bangerter said. “It is what it is.”

Third District Court Judge Matthew Bates ruled on the eligibility hearing Friday after a little more than an hour of deliberation.

“This case cuts at the very heart of democracy,” he said as part of that ruling.

Bates opened his remarks by stating that everyone has a right to run for office, no matter their status. That right, however, is subject to a few qualifications.

Ultimately, he sided with the state that the Utah Constitution is clear that a candidate must be a resident of Utah five years “immediately” preceding the election.

Last week, an adviser to the lieutenant governor ruled on that and thus wasn’t eligible to run for office in the state.

The decision by the lieutenant governor’s office, along with the constitutional arguments around the meaning of the phrase “next preceding” in Utah’s Constitutional language, was at the heart of Friday’s arguments.

Daniel Widdison, an attorney for the attorney general’s office, argued that the constitution and a previous Utah Supreme Court decision were clear.

“Looking at Justice Lee’s decision, it’s the plain reading of the decision,” argued Widdison. “The expressed clarity of the decision says ‘next preceding’ means ‘immediately preceding.’ Justice Lee had no problem making that decision,” he said.

Chad Shattuck, representing Bangerter, argued the word “immediately” has been added in other instances to say explicitly “immediately next preceding an election,” but wasn’t in this case.

“There are many constitutions that use immediate in their constitution. Utah chose not to. We’re asking this court, don’t force that language that doesn’t exist in the constitution upon Mr. Bangerter,” Shattuck said.

Widdison also argued that it would be worse to leave Bangerter on the ballot, only to have it later proven he’s not eligible. He said that if Bangerter is disqualified, the law allows Lyman to pick a new eligible candidate who can file a declaration of candidacy.

Shattuck pushed back on the process by the lieutenant governor’s office not to even allow Bangerter on the ballot — arguing that state law says that the office must read the individual the qualifications required in law, and ask the candidate if they qualify.

“That’s the job of the filing clerk,” Shattuck said.

Shattuck further argued that the office cannot act as “judge, jury, and executioner.”

But Widdison contended that if there was an “obvious” question with the candidates eligibility, they then the lieutenant governor’s office doesn’t have to read requirements for the position.

He argued that even if the lieutenant governor’s office had read Bangerter the qualifications, he would not have been able to answer truthfully that he’s eligible to run since he’s only been a resident of Utah since 2021.

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Judge rules Bangerter is not eligible for lieutenant governor race