ST. GEORGE – In the wake of Sen. Steve Urquhart’s resignation from the Utah Senate, a replacement needs to be found to finish out his term. Choosing that replacement is in the hands of the Washington County Republican Party’s central committee that meets Thursday.
Urquhart, who has served in the Senate for eight years, announced his resignation last week. Taking a job with the University of Utah as a global ambassador necessitated relocating his family to Salt Lake City, Urquhart said in his resignation letter to the Senate president.
As a consequence of the move, Urquhart no longer lives in the Senate District 29. It is for this reason he resigned the position four month before the end of what would have been his final term in the Senate.
“He had no choice but to resign,” said Rep. Don Ipson, who currently represents House District 75. Ipson is also running for Urquhart’s Senate seat. Due to current circumstances, he may find himself in the position sooner than originally planned.
As a part of a notice sent to Republican Party members about the upcoming central committee meeting and the need to select an interim replacement for Urquhart, individuals were also invited to put their names forward for consideration for the position.
Ipson confirmed that some of the party delegates have approached him about putting his name forth for the position, which he has since done, he said.
Whoever is chosen to be the interim senator by the central committee will then have their name sent to Gov. Herbert for approval.
“If chosen by the central committee and appointed by the governor, I look forward to serving,” Ipson said.
Ipson said that having served in the Utah House of Representatives for nearly eight years will give him an advantage in the Senate should he be appointed. He tenure in the House also gives him a measure of seniority that will serve well in the other half of the Legislature, he said.
Outside of the Legislature, Ipson serves as the president of DATS Trucking.
If Ipson is chosen of the appointment, it won’t be the first time in recent history the central committee has appointed someone to the seat they were originally running for.
In 2014, Washington County Commissioner Denny Drake resigned from the County Commission. Republican candidate Victor Iverson was running for Drake’s commission seat at the time, along with Democratic candidate Paul Van Dam.
The committee appointed Iverson to the position he was subsequently elected to.
The Washington County Republican Party chair at that time, Nick Lang, said the party followed state statute and picked Iverson due to his previously having won the party delegate’s nomination by 67 percent.
Ipson also pointed to his being picked to be party’s nominee for Senate District 29 with a majority of the delegate votes as a potential reason why he may end up as the appointee.
“I think there’s already writing on the wall that that he’s a preference for the position,” said Robert Jensen, current chair of the Washington County Republican Party. Jensen also referred to the original delegate vote.
Even though Ipson may have an advantage over others who may vie for the short-term appointment, the central committee will give all those who apply the opportunity to speak to the committee and make their case, Jensen said.
Dorothy Engelman, Ipson’s Democratic opponent for Urquhart’s seat, said she found the timing of Urquhart’s resignation suspect as there are less than two months to go in the election cycle. Engelman is a former chair of the Washington County Democratic Party and currently serves as the executive director of the Erin Kimball Foundation.
“It just doesn’t smell right,” she said, adding that many people don’t feel it’s fair to give a candidate the advantage of incumbency before actually earning it through the vote.
Engelman also pointed to the 2014 County Commissioner race as an example of the above, as well as the appointment of Lowry Snow to the Legislature in early 2012. Engelman was defeated in her race against Snow for House District 74 later that year. Snow replaced then Speaker David Clark who resigned to run for Congress.
“It’s probably a done deal,” Engelman said. “I think it’s interesting that Republicans here have a habit of resigning early and naming (their replacements).”
Ispon declined to comment concerning Engelman’s questions about the timing of Urquhart’s resignation beyond saying there was nothing “sinister” behind it. Urquhart needed to move and so he did, Ipson said, and his resignation came as a natural consequence of that.
Should Ispon be selected to fill Urquhart’s seat early, he will have to resign from the House. This will leave the seat for House District 75 open. It is a possibility the central committee has been made aware of, Jensen said.
Currently running for the House District 75 seat unopposed is Republican candidate Walt Brooks.
The Washington County Republican Party central committee meets at the Dixie Center St. George Thursday at 7 p.m. to determine Urquhart’s interim replacement.
- Washington County Republican Party webstie
- Rep. Don Ipson’s Legislature profile website | Blog
- Dorothy Engelman’s campaign website
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