County Republicans pick candidates during virtual convention

Washington County Republican Party chair Jimi Kestin shares the results of delegate voting during the party’s nominating convention over Facebook Live, St. George, Utah, April 18, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Republican Party, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Republican Party convened as planned Saturday morning, albeit virtually over Facebook Live videos. Despite some hiccups involving delegates trying to vote over email, party chair Jimi Kestin said the convention exceeded his expectations.

Washington County Republican Party chair Jimi Kestin shares the delegate turnout during the party’s nominating convention over Facebook Live, St. George, Utah, April 18, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Republican Party, St. George News

“I had really high expectations for us to overcome the challenges COVID-19 brought us, and they were exceeded,” Kestin told St. George News following the conclusion of the convention.

The Republican county convention, which has often been held at the Washington County Legacy Park fairgrounds in the past, had to be reworked due to large gatherings being canceled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Like other groups and events, county Republicans turned to technology for a solution.

Unable to meet with the delegates one-on-one, candidates seeking the county GOP’s nomination submitted three-minute videos that were posted to the county party’s website for the delegates to watch and review once the convention got under way.

Prominent Utah Republicans like Utah GOP chair Derek Brown and Gov. Gary Herbert also submitted prerecorded videos greeting the delegates prior to voting.

“While COVID-19 has limited our ability to take part in this convention in person, it is imperative that it not be allowed to impede our participation in the political process,” Hebert said in his video. “This year’s convention will look a little different, but let me assure you, it is no less important.”

There was a delay in getting the first round of voting for candidates started, as party officials worked to get delegates credentialed. Kestin joked over Facebook that it was starting to feel like a regular convention due to the delay.

Once the credentials issue was settled, Kestin reported that delegate turnout was at 93%, as 487 out of 536 delegates returned emails confirming their status.

“This is outstanding,” Kestin said.

Prior to the delegates voting, Republican candidates running unopposed received the party’s nomination through acclamation. These candidates include:

  • Rep. Travis Seegmiller for Utah House 62
  • Rep. Walt Brooks for Utah House 75
  • Tom Durrant for Washington County Assessor
  • Eric Clarke for Washington County Attorney.
  • David Whitehead for Washington County Treasurer.
  • Lesa Sandberg for the county GOP secretary.

The first round of voting saw incumbent Lowry Snow win the nomination for Utah House 74 against challenger R. Quinn Denning in a vote of 91-53 (63.2% to 36.8%), and incumbent Dean Cox getting 66% of the delegate vote for Washington County Commissioner over Slade Hughes and Doug Wulfenstein and who garnered 17.5% and 16.5% of the vote respectively.

Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox, St. George, Utah, Jan. 7, 2019 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

None of the six candidates for Washington County Recorder received a 60% majority vote in the first round, though Gary Christensen came close with 57.4%. He was followed by Doug Miller, Kimberly Hancock, Jonathan Liddle, Michael Draper and Robert Foster.

Christensen took the nomination in the second round with 67.9% of the vote.

Sen. Don Ipson narrowly avoided going to primary Saturday for Utah Senate District 29.

Ipson took the majority vote in the first round with 59.9% of the vote followed by Michelle Boulter with 38.3% and Jason Barker with 1.8%. The second round of voting saw Ipson garner 60.1% of the vote to Boulter’s 39.9%.

The race for House 71, currently held by Rep. Brad Last, will be decided in next week’s state convention as it covers parts of Washington and Iron counties. Candidates for state and federal-level office will also be addressed at the state convention.

Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, speaks on Senate Bill 173 on the Senate floor on the Utah Legislature, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 5, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

Voting went well overall, Kestin said, though some delays occurred due to delegates in certain parts of the county dealing with power outages, poor internet connections or not receiving emails needed for voting. Once these issues were addressed, voting was able to conclude without incident.

“We wanted to make sure every vote was counted accurately,” Kestin said.

Overall, Kestin said the convention went well and he was pleased with the results.

“Our team pulled together and showed the state how smoothly a convention can be done under these circumstances,” he said, adding he looks forward to the day when the party is able to have live, face-to-face conventions again.

The Washington County Democratic Party held its nominating convention earlier this month with Chuck Goode running for Senate Distinct 29; Kenzie Carter running for Utah House 74 and Rebecca Sullivan running for Utah House 75.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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