ST. GEORGE – Rep. Don Ipson was unanimously chosen by the Washington County Republican Party central committee Thursday to fill the vacancy in the state Senate left by Sen. Steve Urquhart’s recent resignation. Walt Brooks was also chosen Thursday to fill the vacancy left by Ipson.
Ipson fills the position through acclimation since he was unopposed, and his name now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for approval and appointment as Senate District 29’s interim representative.
“I am honored to accept your nomination to fulfill Sen. Urquhart’s seat,” Ipson told the assembled members of the central committee. “I commit to you I’ll do my best (in the Senate).”
Ipson has served in the state House for the last eight years as the representative for District 75. Following the central committee meeting, he said his time with the House will add a level of seniority to his position in the Senate.
Being chosen to fill Urquhart’s remaining time also gives him seniority in the Senate over those elected in November, although this hinges on Ipson being elected to the position in the November election as well.
During the final months of Urquhart’s term, Ipson said he expects to fulfill Urquhart’s assignments and see them through to the end of the year. This may include chairing of the Senate’s Higher Education Appropriations Committee.
“I’m anxious to get there and get to work,” Ipson said. “Ready or not, here I come.”
As he moves closer to filling the Senate seat, Ipson will resign from the House and leave House District 75 open for incoming replacement Walt Brooks.
Brooks won the Republican nomination for House District 75 in April and was also unanimously nominated to fill the interim position by the central committee Thursday.
Brooks, a businessman who runs a small software company, told the committee he originally planned to shadow the other legislators as they dealt with legislative issues during the interim season. Instead, he’ll be working with them as an interim representative until year’s end.
“I’m looking forward to jumping right in,” Brooks said. “I was planning (to go Salt Lake City) anyway. So instead of shadowing, I feel like there’s a little bit more purpose for me to get serious and dig in.”
In relation to Ipson being nominated to fill Urquhart’s seat, Robert Jensen, Washington County Republican Party chair, said the press was reporting that favoring Ipson for the spot was somehow underhanded and a sign of dirty politics.
“I don’t know about dirty politics,” Jensen said. “Seems to me it’s kind of simple, and we’re playing by the book.”
Issues surrounding Ipson as Urquhart’s replacement were originally raised by Dorothy Engelman, the Democratic challenger to Senate District 29.
She has previously said that outgoing Republicans appear to have a habit of resigning and choosing a successor of sorts – in some cases, that successor is the very candidate running for the office to be filled. The time of Urquhart’s resignation – six weeks before the election – also seemed suspect, Engelman said.
Engelman’s view was shared by two of her supporters who arrived at the Dixie Center St. George where the Washington County Republican Party’s central committee met. They were easy to pick out of the crowd due to the shirts they wore declaring support for the Democratic candidate.
“It’s outrageous,” Engelman supporter Jerry Salkowe said. “To just ‘anoint’ somebody before the voters have the chance to say their mind. That’s not American. That’s not the way democracy’s supposed to work. So we’re outraged, (and) we’re here as a visible expression of that.”
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