WASHINGTON COUNTY – With this year’s primary elections focused on municipal races across the state, those in Washington County centered around city council races. In the wake of Tuesday’s elections, some candidates move on to the general election in November, while others have been eliminated from the race altogether.
In St. George and Hurricane, the candidates who won and lost were determined by a voter turnout of less than 10 percent.
“It’s not bad, but very terrible,” said Kaden Demille, Hurricane City recorder.
Hurricane saw a 9.3 percent voter turnout, while St. George saw a 9.2 percent turnout, according to polling data from both cities.
Demille attributed the low turnout to there not being any other major races – like those at the county, state, or federal level – or hot topics driving people to the polls.
“There also wasn’t a lot of controversy or hot topics out there,” he said. “The low numbers really don’t surprise me.”
In Hurricane, the unofficial numbers place City Council candidates Kevin D. Thomas at 343 votes, Pam Humphries at 327 votes, Cheryl S. Reeve at 310 votes, Ginger Hall at 303 voters, Tony Hoyt at 202 votes, Jason Smith at 145 votes and Sean Reddish at 140 votes.
With nearly 250 absentee ballots yet to be received by Hurricane, Demille said the numbers could change significantly once tallied and officially canvased.
Still, it’s a small number determining who moves forward to the general election, Washington County Recorder Kim Hafen said about the municipal primaries Tuesday.
“There’s a few people making the choice for a lot of people about who gets to move on,” Hafen said. “They’ve got another chance in the general election, but that’s still three people being eliminated by a short number of (voters).”
Officials from St. George, Washington City and the county gathered together Tuesday night to tally the votes brought in from the various precincts across the two cities. Though the county prepares as if there will be 100 percent turnout, Hafen said, some polling locations see little participation. One site had about 34 people during the 13 hours it was open Tuesday, he said.
“It seems mayor elections draw out more people, but the mayors don’t vote – it’s the City Council,” Hafen said. “The mayors may vote in case of a tie, but it’s really the City Council members that are determining city policy and those kind of things.”
In St. George, which had a 9.2 percent voter turnout, City Council incumbents Jimmie Hughes and Bette Arial moved forward with 1,572 and 1,439 votes respectively. Following them are Ed Baca with 1,280 votes, Gregg McArthur with 1,023 votes, N. Craig Hammer with 876 votes, and Bryan Thiriot with 699 votes.
Michelene Perez was among five additional St. George City Council candidates who did not pass the primaries, garnering 502 votes. While she said on her campaign’s Facebook page that she was grateful for the opportunity to run for the City Council, the low voter turnout disappointed her.
Perez wrote on the Facebook page:
The only thing I am truly disappointed in is the low turn-out rate for voting. Less than 10 (percent) of St George. Remember the people have power, don’t voluntarily give up yours. Vote, demand change from your Mayor and City Council, show up at their offices, in their in-boxes, their answering machines. Demand that your rights be a priority. You are important.
St. George City Council incumbent Bette Arial, who passed the primaries, said she saw the lowering voter turnout as a sign of the times.
“Some people are interested and some aren’t,”Arial said.
In past elections, people have told Arial they’re either too busy to vote or simply want nothing to do with politics, having become apathetic toward political process.
However, Arial also said voting in municipal elections – and voting in general – is one of the most important things a citizen can do.
While people may become focused on state and national politics, it is the local decisions made by the city councils that can have a more immediate affect on people, Arial said.
According to the Washington County website, the last time a purely municipal primary election was had was in 2009. Unlike this year, the 2009 primaries included mayoral races for a number of the county’s cities. At the time, St. George saw a voter turn out of 14.9 percent.
Washington City also held mayoral and City Council races in 2009, which drew out 24.6 percent. This year, the turnout for Washington City was 13.3 percent.
Three candidates for Washington City Council were eliminated Tuesday. The remaining contenders include Kolene Granger at 637 votes, Troy Belliston at 572 votes, incumbent Jeff Turek at 460 votes, C. Bradford Allen at 403 votes, Jean Arbuckle at 329 votes, and Bill Hudson at 323 votes.
In contrast with the counties’ larger cities, Springdale drew out 64.5 percent of its voters in the 2009 primary election, while this year, Virgin brought out an estimated turnout of 54 percent.
For information on who passed the primary elections in Virgin, Enoch, and Kanab, visit the Southern Utah 2015 primary election results post.
- Southern Utah 2015 primary election results
- Meet your Enoch City Council candidates; election 2015
- Meet your Enoch mayoral candidates; Election 2015
- Candidates for Cedar City Council 2015 election answer questions
- St. George City Council candidates talk about growth, code enforcement; see them here, STGnews Videocast
- Municipal election candidates named
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