On the EDge: A running start for Ipson

L-R: Rep. Don Ipson, former Sen. Steve Urquhart. Ipson is the expected interim appointee to fill Urquhart's seat through year's end. Ipson is also a candidate for the seat in the upcoming November 2016 general election. St. George, Utah | File photos, St. George News

OPINION – It’s just not right.

Dad was a soft-spoken man. He had a great sense of humor, but also developed a fair share of wisdom during his years.

He wouldn’t rant and rave, didn’t threaten or lash out.

Instead, he would level his soft, hazel eyes on me and utter a few words that seemed oh so appropriate.

“It’s just not right,” he told me more than once.

The words came back to me a few days ago when I learned of a bit of local political maneuvering that just doesn’t settle in my head.

Steve Urquhart, who has represented Washington County in the Utah Legislature since 2001 – first as a member of the House, then Senate – resigned Wednesday.

Read more: Sen. Urquhart resigns from Utah Senate

He had already announced that he would not run this year. His resignation opened the door for Rep. Don Ipson to be appointed to his Senate seat. Ipson, who has been shirt-tailing Urquhart for a while, winning his old seat in the House in 2009, was already on the November ballot, hoping to follow Urquhart into the Senate.

The process to replace a resigning member of the Legislature is simple.

Party officials meet, choose a successor and pass the name to the governor for appointment.

Already this year, Gov. Gary Herbert has appointed one GOP Senate candidate to fill a vacancy, naming Dan Hemmert to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Alvin Jackson, who resigned on July 1. Hemmert was already on the November ballot. Hemmert’s appointment makes him the incumbent, a position that carries a lot of weight with voters.

Would the Democrats do the same thing?

Probably, but we may never know in Republican-laden Utah.

Nonetheless, party officials moved quickly last week, contacting Ipson about stepping into Urquhart’s position on an interim basis, with the expectation, of course, that Herbert would rubber stamp their nominee. While not yet official, the party’s appointment of Ipson to the interim seat is expected.

Is it all legal?


But is it right?

Step back before answering and consider how the U.S. Senate has stonewalled a Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama for purely political reasons.

Understand that although not as glamorous or newsworthy as a U.S. Supreme Court appointment, a state legislative appointment has an awful lot to do with the way you live your life on a daily basis, especially as the states’ rights movement gains additional strength.

Urquhart says he resigned because of a new job as global ambassador for the University of Utah, that he has sold his home, purchased another in Salt Lake City and must oversee a remodel on the property.

“I am moving outside the district,” Urquhart replied when I messaged him for a comment. “There is no flexibility in this. Plus, your question seems to imply that Dorothy (Hughes Engelman, who is also running for Urquhart’s seat) has a chance of winning and some sort of trick is needed. The race is a non-factor in my need to resign. You surprise me. For u (sic) to bring up the race feels naive or like you’re muckraking. I have to live in the district. I’m moving out. SG house is sold. SLC house is purchased, and remodel is days away from completion. For you to link a residency-based resignation to a race where a candidate won’t get over 30% of the vote is … odd.”

To not question how all of these factors just happened to come together would be odd for somebody who keeps an eye on politics – local and national.

Besides, there is a certain arrogance attached to Urquhart’s statement, a disappointing turn for a man I was beginning to respect for his LGBTQ stance, hate crime proposals, opposition to the death penalty and other progressive leanings he seemed to embrace during his last term in office.

Engelman was, naturally, dismayed.

“I was initially surprised by Sen. Urquhart’s announcement, especially with less than 60 days left until the election,” she told me. “It seems that the Republicans have a penchant for resigning before their final term to be able to ‘name’ their successor. My former opponent, Rep. Lowry Snow, had been appointed to fill Rep. Clark’s position prior to the completion of Clark’s term.”

I don’t know if Urquhart’s handicap of the upcoming race will prove true or not, especially in 2016, which will be remembered as the Year of the Angry Voter. And, since there is no such thing as a sure thing in the world of politics, going into the election as the incumbent is a gift, an advantage when voters go to the polls.

Again, these appointments are legal, by the book.

But, the circumstances around them leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I mean, Urquhart had been splitting his time between St. George and Salt Lake City. It just seems a little too coincidental, a bit too convenient to resign now.

But, more importantly, it is disheartening that he holds Engelman in such low esteem.

Maybe she will be defeated.

Maybe she won’t.

But, the thing that disappoints me the most is his flippant quote that she “won’t get over 30% of the vote.”

Maybe she will.

Maybe she won’t.

No matter which way it goes, it is disrespectful of Engelman’s candidacy and, in turn, the system.

As Dad used to say, it’s just not right.

But then again, not much is this election season.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Ron September 13, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Dorothy Engelman WILL be defeated.

    • .... September 13, 2016 at 11:51 am

      Dorothy should tend to the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and Lion and leave politics to the professional liars and thieves.

  • beacon September 13, 2016 at 8:42 am

    For Steve Urquhart to comment as he has on this just points to his lack of consideration for all constituents of this county. All but the most foolish know that an incumbent has an edge in an election even more than they already have in an area such as this. Moving a candidate into the seat before the election has been done more than a few times here, and shows, in my opinion, bad sportsmanlike conduct on the part of the party, whether Republican or Democrat, although the Dems have no chance to do it themselves. Just let the campaign play out and best man or woman win. Of course, the Reps know that they will probably win anyway so why muddy it up with junk like this. In any case, glad to see Urquhart go. That’s the silver lining in this.

  • Brian September 13, 2016 at 8:55 am

    So you’re willing to connect all the dots on this, but probably think anyone who questions Hillary’s health is a wacko. Riiiight.

    Being an incumbent for 2 months before an elections carries pretty much zero weight. Incumbents keep winning re-election because their names are known, they have way more financing, and they can call in favors from all of the cronies they have.

    It’s not like the incumbent gets a much bigger font-size on the ballot. Honestly, for me being an incumbent is a liability and falls in the “throw the bums out” category, seriously weighing against them unless they have proven themselves to stand for principles I value. I’m MUCH less likely to vote for an incumbent unless they have proven themselves. I think the odds of corruption go up with every passing year.

    Politicians are like diapers: they need to be changed frequently because they start to stink.

  • Proud Rebel September 13, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Ah, good. You are back to writing something I can disagree with! All is right with the world. 😉

    First and foremost, Democrat Party or Republican Party, it’s just a matter of which crooks are going to get in with (any) next election. You speak of being “disrespectful of Engelman’s candidacy and, in turn, the system.” As far as I’m concerned, respect is something to be earned, not given. (Now where have I heard that before.) Both Ms. Engelman, and the system have failed miserably in that area. No one in their right mind would vote for her. Of course, there are a lot of folks here who aren’t in their right mind…

    You mention, and I quote here; “Steve Urquhart, who has represented Washington County in the Utah Legislature since 2001 – first as a member of the House, then Senate – resigned Wednesday.” Well, I’ve got to again, disagree with you. Mr. Urquhart showed his true colors over the ambulance fiasco, both in Washington and Iron counties. Knowing his association with Gold Cross, I don’t see how he was representing anyone but them. He sure wasn’t representing the people of either county. I don’t know if what he did was legal or not. I suppose it was. But it surely was not ethical. Oh wait, he is a lawyer, he doesn’t need to be ethical. As I said when the article was printed about him “retiring,” DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON YOUR WAY OUT.

    You also mention Don Ipson. Mr. Ipson is a community minded business person. It appears to me that he has been doing a good job as representative, there is no reason he shouldn’t do as good a job as a senator. Of course, he is still a business man, turned politician…

    I realize that politicians are a necessary evil, so it’s just a matter of “which one is worse.”

  • BIG GUY September 13, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Ed, “Step back before answering and consider how the U.S. Senate [Reid, Schumer, Obama as a Senator, Biden as a Senator] has stonewalled a Supreme Court nominee put forward by President [Bush on several occasions] for purely political reasons. As an opinion writer, you are allowed to display your biases. As a reader, I’m allowed to point them out.

    Have a nice day.

    • Henry September 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Well done, Big Guy. Reading Ed’s weekly column is like watching a new episode of “Where’s Waldo” – where did Ed hide his whopper this week?

      • .... September 14, 2016 at 8:23 am

        I’m sure Ed has a good place for stashing whoppers. LOL ! …make sure you don’t mention Bob in your comment because anybody home will ban you from first recess and take you to the principles office.

  • beacon September 13, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Proud Rebel, perhaps you can be “specific” on what you think Don Ipson has done well as a representative? Some worthwhile bills he’s sponsored or co-sponsored? I’m sure he’s been supporting everything that is good for transportation since he’s in the business although I’m also sure he was conflicted in the 2015 session when they upped the gasoline tax and again in this session when they moved transportation money to water projects and are now this November going to ask voters to support Prop 1 to get more sales tax money to help back fill that little decision.

  • Curtis September 16, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Ed —
    I find Urquhart’s action perfectly reasonable — if you don’t live in a district you shouldn’t be representing that district.
    Urquhart’s comment about Engelman’s electibility neither disrespects her or the election process. It is the plain unvarnished truth.
    You and Engelman believe Urquhart to be in league with the forces of darkness to somehow deny Washington County voters the ability to elect Engelman. Her name will still be on the ballot in November, won’t it?
    If you want to take a shot at someone take a shot at Herbert. What is going to happen in the next two months that will require action by the Utah Senate?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.