MANTI—Because of the signature route to the ballot, which has been available since 2018, all five Republican candidates for two county commission seats will be running in the primary election June 28.
But Commissioner Scott Bartholomew of Fayette and Steve Collard, former mayor of Fountain Green, will go in to the primary with the official endorsement of the Sanpete County Republican Party.
In a contest against newcomer Brandon Armstrong of Hideway Valley, Bartholomew got more than 70 percent of the votes on the first ballot at the county convention last Thursday, April 7 at Manti High School.
Running against Collard for the commission seat due to be vacated by Ed Sunderland of Chester were Mike Bennett of Mayfield, a town council member and long-time chairman of the Sanpete County Fair Board, and Vivian Kunz of Indianola, a realtor.
On the first ballot, Collard got a little over 60 percent. Bennett was second and Kunz third. Under the party’s rank-choice voting system, Kunz was dropped from the race. On the second ballot, Collard went over 70 percent, the threshold required to be designated as the party nominee.
The county party adopted an electronic voting system this year designed to enable delegates to cast ballots using their cell phones. The party tested the system extensively prior to the convention, and it appeared to work
But when Chairwoman LuAnn Greenwell offered paper ballots as an alternative, more than half of the delegates opted for the paper ballots.
Greenwell said having a hybrid process was not going to work, so she directed that paper ballots be passed out to everyone.
Once ballots were in hand, the speeches began. Scott Bartholomew could not appear because of long-standing family vacation plans, so Utah Sen. Darren Owens of Fountain Green spoke for him.
Owens detailed Bartholomew’s 10 years of public service—including his recent appointment to the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB), which Owens said is vital to helping Sanpete County fund public projects.
Bartholomew’s opponent, Brandon Armstrong, was open about being a “transplant” who had not lived in Sanpete County for long. He said that Sanpeters were struggling, and he wanted to help.
He cited water problems and economic development as priorities. He said that every morning he watches strings of cars leave Fairview for the Wasatch Front because there are no jobs for those commuters here.
He said cooperation is important and that he wants to work “across the aisle” to help solve Sanpete problems. He says that he wants to learn the real issues here, and he brings a different point of view compared to Bartholomew.
In the other commission race, Collard said that one of his priorities was mental health. He said that he had recently lost a son to suicide. He said Sanpete County was faring better than some counties in that regard, but that there is still a huge problem.
He said that he would look to delegates to help him make decisions about what’s good for Sanpete County. He said it’s not enough to lament the lack of water—we must fight for our water rights. He said it’s time for us to fight for ourselves, and we must figure out how to handle growth.
Bennett said he had served on the Mayfield City Council for several years and has been a long-time member of the fair board. His primary issues were sustaining resources and retaining county law enforcement officers.
He said he was very concerned about water, saying that “we must protect what we have.” And he expressed strong support for farmers.
Vivian Kunz said Sanpete’s biggest problem is water. She said she wanted to make sure homes and businesses are supplied first. She said the county was not addressing growth adequately. She also said she would have an “open-door” policy, and said she knew how to make hard decisions because of her business experience.
While the only candidate races before the convention were the two commission contests, delegates heard from several candidates for state or national offices, or their representatives. Many of those candidates are seeking support in the Republican state convention Saturday, April 23 at the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy.
Rep. Burgess Owens, who represents Sanpete County in Congress, encouraged everyone to read the book “Woke Inc.” to gain an insight on what the cancel culture means to the country.
He also said that we need to teach our kids to have the same commitments to country and values that our parents gave to us. He thanked everyone for their support and praised the rural lifestyle and values that he said he shares as a result of growing up in a small town.
Sen. Mike Lee could not attend but sent a letter to delegates that was read by a representative from his office. Lee emphasized his fiscal conservatism and reiterated the need for a balanced budget amendment.