CEDAR CITY – There may be two separate races for the open seats on the Iron County Commission, but the process candidates face to secure a winning outcome couldn’t be more different.
In previous years, the county convention was where candidates hoping to secure the party’s nomination would invest their energy. Otherwise, they risked leaving the decision up to the general voters in a June primary.
The passing of the Count My Vote compromise in 2013, however, changed this process. Under the new law, effective for the first time in this year’s election, candidates no longer have to leave their political fate in the hands of the party’s delegation.
Instead, candidates can now bypass the convention and force their opponents into a primary by collecting a specific number of signatures determined by how many voters in the county voted in the previous election.
“This is the first year candidates are able to collect signatures so it’s different than in years past. The Count My Vote compromise has been very controversial and there are some really strong feelings out there about collecting signatures so it’s going to be an interesting election,” said Iron County Clerk Jon Whittaker.
Around 225 delegates, chosen at the March caucuses, will have a chance during the Iron County Republican Convention Saturday to vote for the party’s candidates in each race. The convention is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Canyon View Middle School Auditorium.
Seven candidates have thrown a hat in the ring for a chance to fill Seat A on the Iron County Commission recently vacated by Dave Miller who resigned March 25.
Those filing are all Republicans except one, Scott Truman, who is running on the Democratic ticket. GOP candidates include; Gary L. Howe, Mike Bleak, Gaylord Ivan Robb, Casey O. Anderson, Megan K. Gower and James M. Lunt.
The other race, for Seat C, has GOP hopefuls Jody Edwards and Sam Brower running against incumbent Commissioner Alma Adams. Libertarian contender Wayne Hall and Constitutional candidate Ryan Bauer have also signed up to run.
As candidates running outside of Utah’s popular party, Hall, Bauer and Truman will not participate in the convention process or in any primaries. Instead, their names will appear on the ballot in November’s general election.
Commission Seat C is for a full four-year term while A is for the remaining two years of Miller’s term.
Candidates Adams, Brower and Edwards have all collected the 421 signatures necessary in Iron County to ensure a June primary.
However, since the race for Seat A is a mandatory election brought on by Miller’s resignation, the candidates cannot collect signatures but will be vetted by the party’s delegation.
In this race, a candidate must secure at least 60 percent of the votes from the delegates to win the party’s nomination.
These candidates, unlike the ones running for Seat C, do not have the consolation of knowing that with enough signatures there is a primary around the corner, regardless of how the convention plays out.
“This race is like those that were held before the Count My Vote Compromise where candidates could not collect signatures and the delegates chose the candidate whose name would be on the November ballot,” Whittaker said. “The only way there will be a primary in this race is if one candidate doesn’t get at least 60 percent of the votes from the delegates.”
The county GOP central committee is slated to meet Saturday before the convention begins to appoint an interim commissioner to fill Miller’s vacancy until January when the newly elected leaders will be sworn in.
The committee is made up of the local party leadership, precinct chairs and the elected leaders from the county.
All seven candidates running for Seat A put their name in for the appointment, as did Brower. Since Brower was already a Seat C candidate, the law would not allow him to change his candidacy midstream. However, nothing in the Utah election code prevents him from being appointed as the interim commissioner while seeking election for another seat, Whittaker said.
Former Cedar City Councilman John Black also submitted his name for the interim appointment. Black did not declare his candidacy to run for office but said he sought the temporary post to give the central committee another option.
“I put my name in for the interim seat because I wanted to offer the committee a neutral alternative to those candidates who are all running for office,” Black said. “This way, the candidates can all be on a level playing field at the convention, because I believe if one of the candidates is chosen for that appointment that candidate will have an advantage with the delegation and that’s unfair to the others.”
Brower expressed similar sentiments and said he would like to see the committee choose an interim commissioner that isn’t in the running for the party’s nomination.
Candidates will have three minutes each to lay out the reasons for the committee to appoint one of them to the interim commission seat.