ST. GEORGE – Washington County Republicans will be going to the polls in June as two candidates vying for the party’s nomination for Washington County Commission go to primary.
The primary showdown between former St. George City Councilman Gil Almquist and political newcomer Allen Davis was the result of two rounds of voting during the Washington County Republican Party’s nominating convention Saturday.
Held inside the new Grafton Building at the county fairgrounds, Almquist, Davis and since-eliminated candidate Slade Hughes each addressed the assembled county delegates.
The commission candidates are seeking to claim the seat currently held by Commissioner Zachary Renstrom, who chose not to run for re-election. Renstrom is leaving the County Commission to become the next general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District once the current manager, Ron Thompson, retires.
Of Washington County’s 535 Republican delegates, 484 attended the convention, about 92 percent of total delegates.
In the first voting round, Hughes had garnered 81 votes to Davis’ 201 votes and Almquist’s 202 votes. After being eliminated in the first round, Hughes threw his support behind Davis.
The delegates ultimately cast 272 votes for Davis and 213 for Almquist during the second round of voting. A majority of 291 votes was needed to avoid a primary.
“I believe we need better representation on the County Commission for the entire county,” Hughes said, adding that he did not believe the county’s unincorporated communities were given adequate representation.
Hughes, a rancher and businessman from Veyo, said Davis is also from an unincorporated part of the county, as he lives in Winchester Hills.
Hughes and Davis agreed on not giving the Bureau of Land Management any more county land than it already had. This was in reference to proposed congressional legislation the current County Commission supports that would add nearly 7,000 acres west of Bloomington to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in exchange for a designated route for the proposed northern corridor.
Almquist was more general, addressing issues of combating federal overreach in order to preserve public lands access and mixed use for future generations. He also said the county needs to find more efficient ways to reuse water while also securing additional water resources like the Lake Powell Pipeline.
“This is Dixie, and I’ve been here so long that it’s in my blood to see that this county grows right,” Almquist said, adding that he wants to tackle the many issues facing the county. “It’s a big picture, and I’m willing to paint it.”
In addition to serving on the St. George City Council, Almquist is also a former County Commission candidate and owns a landscaping business.
Davis drew some applause and a cheer from the crowd as he spoke about misgivings he had about what he seemingly implied to be Intermountain Healthcare’s monopoly over medical care in the county.
“We desperately need another health care corporation in the county,” Davis said. “I think the health care corporation we have is working very hard to maintain its control of its market share.”
To help remedy this, Davis said he would recruit another health care provider into the county in order to stir competition.
As to the Lake Powell Pipeline, Davis said he won’t sign off on anything until he is shown what the actual price of the project is.
Davis is a lineman for the city of St. George and is also a member of the board overseeing the Winchester Hills Water Company.
As a newcomer to county politics, Davis said he’ll be getting a committee together to help him navigate the road to the June 26 primary.
“I’m looking forward to taking the message to the people now – the voters,” Almquist said.
The primary’s winner goes on the face Democratic challenger Robert E. Ford in the general election.
Following the vote for the County Commission nominee, delegates voted for a new State Central Committee member representing Washington County.
Pat Bradley, a medical lad technologist, was chosen by the majority of the delegates to join the State Central Committee with a majority 274 votes to fellow committee candidates David Clark and Marlee Meyers at 109 and 85 votes, respectively.
Bradley carries with him the Washington County Republican Party’s stance that the state’s caucus-convention system is the best way to select party candidates, as it allows delegates to vet candidates. The county GOP seeks the repeal of SB 54, the 2014 elections law also known as Count My Vote, that allows candidates to bypass the delegates completely through collecting signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, or take both routes if they so choose.
On the state level, efforts by the Utah GOP to have the election law found unconstitutional have failed in state and federal court. The most recent appeal on the lawsuit was shot down by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
There was an attempt by Utah GOP leadership to drop the lawsuit last fall, but that was rebuffed by the State Central Committee before it was smacked down by the 10th Circuit Court.
While this caused some contention between members of the central committee, the Utah GOP has been described as being at war with itself over the committee’s passing of a bylaw that would revoke party membership of candidates who chose to gather signatures exclusively or in addition to the caucus-convention.
While the measure has caused some infighting between the central committee and party leadership, the Utah Elections Office has chosen to ignore the bylaw completely, encouraging Republican candidates to collect signatures without fear of party reprisal.
Former Utah House Speaker David Clark took a pragmatic stance and told the delegates that SB 54 is the law now and that the caucus system needs to be improved. He was subsequently publicly called out by Marlee Meyers, wife of U.S. Senate candidate Larry Meyers, for being an early supporter of the SB 54 law.
Neither Almquist nor Davis signed on to collect signatures, opting instead to go through the caucus-convention system only.
All other county Republican candidates were voted in through acclamation due to the races lacking an in-party challenger.
Legislative races representing Washington County
- Travis Seegmiller for House District 62.
- V. Lowry Snow for House District 74. He will face Libertarian candidate Daniel Holloway in the general election.
- Walt Brooks for House District 75. He will face Libertarian candidate Michael Gardner and Independent American candidate Kieth Keisch in the general election.
Washington County races – Republican incumbent running unopposed
- Victory Iverson for Washington County Commission Seat B.
- Cory Pulsipher for Washington County Sheriff.
- Brock Belnap for Washington County Attorney.
- Kim Hafen for Washington County Clerk.
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