ST. GEORGE – In a race for Washington County Commission filled with Republicans — including a longtime Republican now running unaffiliated — Josh Warburton, the publisher of The Independent, has also jumped into the race as an unaffiliated candidate.
“I’m largely running to give people a moderate option,” Warburton said. “All of the current candidates, and certainly the officials we’ve had historically here in Washington County, have skewed far to one side for too long.”
When it appeared that only Republicans would be running for an available seat on the three-person County Commission this year, Warburton said he decided to jump into the fray as an independent, unaffiliated candidate.
“I want to bring a voice to people who are underrepresented and unrepresented and at the same time represent all of the citizens of Washington County fairly and evenly,” Warburton said.
The race currently includes local prominent Republicans Jimi Keston, a banker and pastor; Dean Cox, Washington County administrator; and Gil Almquist, a business owner and former St. George City Councilman. Greg Aldred, a businessman and longtime GOP affiliate, filed to run as an unaffiliated candidate.
Warburton described himself as a fiscal conservative, saying that if you aren’t conservative with your money as a business owner, you’ll run yourself into the ground. He also touts libertarian leanings on civil issues and moderate views on social issues.
Government shouldn’t be injecting itself into the bedroom or, in some cases, what people consume, Warburton said.
“In a broad stroke, I’d say I have a mixture of leanings that puts me in the middle ground,” Warburton said.
According to court records, Warburton was arrested in 2010 on misdemeanor-level charges related to drug possession and drug paraphernalia involving marijuana. He subsequently pleaded guilty to the charges and successfully completed a court-ordered 15-week substance abuse course related to the incident.
Warburton declined to comment concerning the matter.
On issues addressing the county, Warburton said he supports the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and providing better pay for Sheriff’s Office personnel. Police officers on the municipal level are paid more than the county-level, and that needs to be changed, he said.
Warburton also supports the concept of a countywide animal shelter staffed by volunteers and inmates from the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
Working hand-in-hand with municipal animal shelters, the county shelter would act as the primary intake and care facility for the animals, which would help take some pressure off the smaller shelters. In turn, the municipal shelters would be able to focus more on animal adoptions, Warburton said.
The Washington County Commission will be holding an open house to discuss the concept of a county animal shelter at the Washington County Administration Building, located at 197 E. Tabernacle St., at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
One issue Warburton does not support is the Lake Powell Pipeline project, which he has referred to on numerous occasions as a “boondoggle.” He agrees with a study released last November by 20 economists from three Utah universities that the pipeline will be too expensive and become a major financial burden on the county and its residents if pursued.
“I agree with them that it’s too large of a burden for the taxpayers to bear,” Warburton said.
The pipeline has been projected to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion to build. Opponents of the project claim paying off the project will run twice that amount, if not more.
While he doesn’t support the pipeline, Warburton also encourages people curious about the issue to research the matter themselves.
Warburton’s family moved to Washington County in 1980 when he was 4 years old. He has grown up in the county and lived in seven different communities, including St. George, Leeds, Ivins, Toquerville, Veyo, Washington City and currently Springdale.
“I believe I bring a unique perspective on the county having lived in seven different communities and having worked in the majority of those communities,” he said. “I really love the county. I love every bit of it.”
Warburton said he’s gained quite a bit of support from the community since announcing his run for County Commission. In relation to that, he isn’t worried that opinions and stances taken by his publication, The Independent, may potentially harm his chances. On the other hand, he points to it as an example of being an alternative voice for the region.
The Independent, which has been in business for 20 years, has long covered arts and entertainment in the county and surrounding region. A couple of years ago, the paper expanded to cover news and opinion, some of which hasn’t set well with facets of the community.
“If anything, it’s grounded and cemented myself as being that alternative voice for the area,” Warburton said. “I would like to embody that as a candidate. That’s to say I can be open to discussing all ideas, listening to all viewpoints and in the case of Washington County, hopefully coming to better, more balanced decisions and results.”
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