ST. GEORGE – In the wake of Sen. Steve Urquhart’s announcement in January that he will not seek re-election to the Utah Senate this year, three candidates have stepped forward: Republicans Rep. Don Ipson — currently representing House District 75 — and newcomer Richard Jenkins and Democrat Dorothy Engelman.
Urquhart’s district, Senate District 29, covers St. George and the western half of Washington County.
Ipson announced his intent to run for Urquhart’s seat shortly after the senator publicly stated he wouldn’t seek another term in office.
Ipson has served in the Utah House since 2009 and has advanced measures related to education. Along with Urquhart, he has been involved in building up Dixie State University and Dixie Applied Technology College.
While other candidates are quick to lay out issues they plan to pursue, Ipson said he would rather meet with the voters and learn what is important to them first.
“I’m here to represent the people,” Ipson said. “I’m not here to set the agenda. I want to see what the people have.”
Ipson said he wants to continue serving the people of Southern Utah and hopes he’s done a good enough job in their eyes to have their vote for the Utah Senate.
Running against Ipson for the Republican nomination is newcomer Richard Jenkins of Veyo.
A lifelong resident of Washington County and carpenter by trade, Jenkins said he was tired of seeing candidates run unopposed and doesn’t feel the people of the county are being adequately represented.
“I just decided one day, instead of complaining about it, that I should get up and (run),” Jenkins said.
Issues he feels strongly about, Jenkins said, are education and public lands. In particular, he favors more local control on the county level versus federal and state. He supports the state’s efforts to have management of the public lands transferred to state yet feels there hasn’t been enough done by the Legislature to force the issue.
“I feel we need to start acting, to find a new perspective, a new voice for Washington County,” Jenkins said, “someone who is willing to put a halt on things not oriented toward freedom and liberty (and who is) for deregulating and bringing the voice back to the people.”
Ipson and Jenkins will face each other in the Washington County Republican Convention April 16. One of the candidates needs to receive 60 percent of the delegate vote at the convention in order to avoid a primary.
Whoever the final choice as the Republican candidate for Senate District 29 is, he will be running against Engelman.
Engelman, a former chair of the Washington County Democratic Party and previous candidate for House District 74, said she feels there needs to be an alternative to the status quo.
“I just feel we need an alternative voice,” Engelman said. “I think it’s important for other voices to be heard and I see Rep. Ipson as being much of what we’ve had for a long time.”
Engelman hopes to continue some of the work started by Urquhart in the Legislature, such as continuing to advance rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. She would also continue efforts to repeal the death penalty in the state. Efforts made by Urquhart in relation to both issues died during the 2016 legislative session.
How the Legislature chooses to use taxpayer money, Engelman said, is also an issue she feels strongly about.
She does not support the idea of putting $54 million into a coal port in California or setting aside $14 million to help fund a lawsuit against the federal government over public lands.
The race for Senate District 29 is one of two races in Washington County with Democratic challengers. The other race is for House District 71, currently held by Republican incumbent Rep. Brad Last. Challenging him as a Democrat is retired software engineer Chuck Goode.
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