Incumbents sweep 2020 election; Southern Utah candidates thank voters for continued support

Voters at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George, Utah, Oct. 28. 2020 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — While it could be several days before the United States presidential election is called, in Utah, most of the state and local victors have been determined. St. George News reached out to state and local winners discussed their victories and what they hope to achieve.

The new Utah governor

Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox will succeed outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert, according to unofficial election night returns. Cox garnered 63% of the vote, beating Democratic challenger Chris Peterson, who received 31% of the vote.

Cox held a speech online for supporters soon after the polls closed and the numbers showed to be in his favor. As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, Cox called for unity moving forward.

“My fellow Utahns, I promise you I’m not the governor of the Republican Party,” Cox said. “I’m the governor of the state of Utah. And that means all of us.”

Cox also posted the following brief message Tuesday night on Facebook:

Tonight was a night we will never forget. We see you Utah…and we love you. We are excited, humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you for trusting us.

Chris Stewart returns to D.C.

Republican Congressman Chris Stewart will return to Congress with another term as the representative for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. According to Tuesday’s unofficial results, Stewart took 60% of the vote over Democrat and Liberation challengers Kael Weston and J. Robert Latham, who earned 35% and 3% respectively.

Stewart released the following statement over social media Tuesday evening:

I am humbled and honored by the support of so many who are fighting for the future of our country. Tonight the people of the Second District chose personal liberty over mandates, freedom over socialism and law and order over anarchy.

This election has provided us many opportunities to choose between tearing down the foundation of our country or striving for a more perfect Union. I am pleased that Utahns chose to continue to climb the rough and rocky path to the shining city on the hill.

I congratulate and thank Mr. Weston and Mr. Latham for their hard fought races, and for running on their beliefs. I recognize and respect the challenges that candidates face when they run for public office. While our preferences and policies differ, I do not doubt the sincere commitment they give to their platforms. I hope we can work together in areas of mutual agreement.

I will continue to represent all of my constituents to the best of my ability and to do what I can to build upon the strength of our country.

Utah attorney general: ‘Hopefully we can remember those things that unite us’

Republican Sean D. Reyes was reelected as attorney general with 73% of the vote, according to unofficial results. Reyes thanked Utah voters for coming out in record numbers.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 9, 2019 | File photo by Jeremy Harmon/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, St. George News

“I’d like to thank the voters in Utah for participating in record numbers through mail-in and in person balloting,” he said.

“Regardless of party or ideology, our state and nation are stronger when more of us educate ourselves on candidates and issues and participate in elections. It is exciting to see. No matter the outcome, hopefully we can remember those things that unite us as Utahns and Americans. And when all the ballots are counted, I look forward to serving four more years as Attorney General, protecting Utah and all who live in this great state.”

Ballot initiatives

Voters approved changing the Utah constitution to remove a clause allowing slavery as a form of punishment. Ballot counting continued on others, including a change to a constitutional requirement that income tax money be used for education. Lawmakers have said allowing that money to be used for other programs for children and people with disabilities is a necessary revision to shore up future revenues. Some advocates have opposed the change, saying it would do nothing to help already underfunded programs.

Southern Utahns send incumbents back to Utah Legislature

Rep. Walt Brooks will return to the Utah Legislature for a third term for Utah House District 75, according to the unofficial returns of Tuesday’s election. He took 76% of the vote to Democratic challenger Rebecca Sullivan’s 23%.

“I feel great,” Brooks said. “I feel we’ve done some good things and have good things yet to do.”

Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, speaks in the Legislature, Salt Lake City, Feb. 14, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

Upon returning to the Legislature next year, Brooks said he plans to move two bills forward. One bill, if passed, will provide “more gun rights to legal and law abiding citizens” by enabling Utah residents to carry concealed firearms without the need for a permit. The other bill aims to remove state taxes from Social Security.

Brooks said he was grateful to Sullivan for the way the campaign between the two was handled.

“Even with very different policies, we could discuss them while being civil and respectful,” he said.

Republican Sen. Don Ipson won re-election to the Utah Senate District 29 with 76% of the vote over Democrat challenger Chuck Goode, who took 23% of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

“I am humbled and honored that the people see fit to sent me back for another term,” Ipson said.

Ipson will resume his role as the vice chair of the Senate appropriations committee, which he said will help figure out the state’s budget and help Utah continue to be “the best managed state in the nation.”

Rep. V. Lowry Snow a Republican from Santa Clara representing Utah House District 74, was reelected after winning 73% of the votes. Snow commented on the historical – or near historical – participation rate of the political process in the state of Utah.

“When things settle out, we’ll see that this was probably one of the more highly participated elections and probably related to the presidential election,” he said. “But with respect to the numbers that are preliminary, I really am overwhelmed with the support and also humbled.”

Snow said he believes every vote cast in his favor is a reflection of people’s trust and confidence in his ability to represent them, which further inspires him to work hard and maintain that trust.

Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, speaks in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 23, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Utah House, St. George News

While there is still some uncertainty as to what his specific assignment will be in his new term, he said he plans to continue to vet good legislation dealing with public education as well as review legislative oversight.

“I do think the state’s response to the COVID pandemic needs to be reviewed legislatively,” he said.

One of the things he’s working on right now, he said, is working with potential legislation to help “rebalance” the health department and the executive branch’s response with the individual rights of citizens. He said he also wants to ensure that local elected officials have more input in the exercise of the emergency powers.

Snow also congratulated his opponent Kenzie Carter for making the run.

“It’s not an easy thing when you put yourself out there and run for this kind of office, and I want to congratulate her on civil dialog. I try to do the same. Neither of us became personal. There were good issues to discuss,” he said. “I just wanted to congratulate her.”

In Utah House District 72, incumbent Rep. Rex Shipp won reelection, defeating Democratic challenger Lonnie White and Piper Manesse of the United Utah Party. In the preliminary results sent out Tuesday night by Iron County Clerk Jonathan Whittaker, Shipp received 10,697 votes, or 74.5%, while White had 2,587 votes (18%) and Manesse received 1,070 votes (7.5%).

Shipp told St. George News he’s looking forward to his second term.

Rex Shipp, Republican candidate for Utah House District 72, hands out frozen treats, Iron County Fair parade, Parowan, Utah, Sept. 3, 2018 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I just want to support my constituents. I’m always open to listening to them as to what their concerns are,” he said.

Shipp said he’ll continue to push to keep the state’s economy moving in the right direction.

“I just want to make sure we keep things free,” Shipp added. “Free enterprise deregulation, making things good for small business and continuing to support a conservative state that has conservative values and balances our budget.”

Education plays a vital role in the economy, Shipp added.

“With our hiring institutions and our tech institutions, (we’re) trying to make sure people get the education that they need to be able to get better jobs.”

Shipp said Utah is well positioned for future growth, calling it a “competitive state that’s growing in jobs and low in unemployment.”

Washington County Commission: ‘A significant responsibility’

Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox speaks in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the House Natural Resources Committee, St. George News

Incumbent Dean Cox retained his seat on the Washington County Commission against Independent American challenger Robert Love, according to Tuesday night’s unofficial vote tally, which put Cox at 84% of the vote to Love’s 15%.

“I’m really humbled by the response,” Cox said, “and it makes me feel a significant responsibility to the people that re-elected me.”

Cox said he will continue to work on making sure Washington County has the transportation and water infrastructure it needs to accommodate the continuing growth. Specifically, he said he will “continue to champion” the need for the Northern Corridor, as well as the county’s future water needs, with includes the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Washington County School Board: ‘School has to stay open’

For the Washington County School District Board of Education, all three incumbents have been reelected, according to unofficial results.

Becky Dunn, who was reelected to represent District 1 on the school board, is currently winning with 93%.

Dunn has not yet responded to requests for comment from St. George News.

Craig Seegmiller, who was reelected for District 2 on the school board, is winning with 90% of the vote and will begin his 21st year serving on the board. Seegmiller said he was grateful for the support and hopes this serves as a validation for the hard work they’ve been doing as a board.

“I hope that means they think we’re doing a good job. I know we work very hard at it, and I know that take it very, very seriously,” he said.

Seegmiller said he hopes to accomplish “more of the same,” but as of right now, his main focus is to keep schools open.

“We’re in this weird time, and the goal number one is school has to stay open,” he said. “I personally do not like masks, but if we have to do it to keep kids safe and keep teachers safe, then we’ll do it.”

Aside from this aim, he said there are far greater issues that exist outside of the pandemic, such as finance and taxes. He said he has worked hard to keep taxes low.

“Our credit rating is so high that we borrow money at the lowest price that the district has ever borrowed money,” he said. “I’m really proud of those things. We work hard to save the taxpayers money. And that money gets spent wisely, and we do everything we can to get as much money as we can into the hands of the teachers and the employees.”

Washington County School District board member Terry Hutchinson discusses his frustration with the mask mandate, St. George, Utah, July 27, 2020 | File photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

Terry Hutchinson, who was reelected for District 3 on the school board, had the tightest race and is winning with 56% of the vote. Hutchinson said he was very pleased with the outcome.

“I wasn’t sure how close it would be,” he said. “I had an opponent who was actively campaigning, and he was trying to get some information out there. I think it’s good for the democratic process for us to not get complacent. It makes me want to make sure I’m in touch with the community, and the policies support and the policies we press forward with are going to be what the community is desiring for their students.”

Looking forward, Hutchinson said he wants to keep the momentum going with what they have been working on while also building for the future.

“In the next four years, the senior district leadership is likely going to be changing, and I want to make sure that the new leaders that are selected are working hand-in-hand with the board … and being accountable to the community,” he said. “I hope to continue to make sure we have fresh ideas in the schools and that we are trying to increase and improve our accountability to the community.”

One of the biggest challenges they have currently is the “interference of the Wasatch Front” including the Governor’s Office, he added.

“I just don’t believe they have the right idea when it comes to education.”

Iron County School Board: Close races still in play

Three seats on the Iron County School District Board of Education were up for grabs, with Ben A. Johnson winning the District 2 seat uncontested.

In District 1, Dave Staheli leads Tessa Douglas by a margin of 2,218 to 1,596, and in District 3, Jeff Corry has a 2,038 to 1,929 lead over Tiffiney Christiansen.

Iron County Clerk Jonathan Whittaker said an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 mail-in ballots are still outstanding and that an updated vote count would be issued Friday.

Iron County uncontested races

Iron County saw several Republican candidates win their respective uncontested races, including recorder/surveyor Carri Rowley Jeffries, assessor Karsten Reed and treasurer Nicole Roseberg.

Additionally, Republican Marilyn Wood won the uncontested race for Iron County Commission seat C; she’ll join Paul Cozzens and Mike Bleak on the three-member commission when she is sworn in.

For 2020 election results by Washington and Iron counties, click here.

The Associated Press and St. George News reporters Hollie Reina, Jeff Richards and Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

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

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