MANTI – Two Sanpete County Commission races figure to be the focal point of the Sanpete County Republican Party Convention, which is scheduled for Thursday, April 7, at Manti High School. But unlike in previous election years, neither race is expected to be decided at the convention.
At Thursday’s convention, roughly 330 county delegates are expected to be in attendance. The county delegates were elected at last month’s precinct caucuses.
In the past, the county convention narrowed the field of candidates for commission and other county races to two candidates. Those two faced each other in the primary. And if one candidate for an office got 70 percent of the convention vote, that candidate won the party nomination without a primary. Other contenders were eliminated.
All that has changed with the new signature route to the primary ballot. A candidate who gathers enough signatures automatically qualifies for the primary ballot, regardless of what happens in the convention. And all of the contenders for the two county commission seats except one have gathered the required signatures.
Scott Bartholomew of Fayette, the current county commission chairman, is being challenged for his seat (Seat B) by Brandon Armstrong of Hideaway Valley. Bartholomew ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018 and should be a strong contender. Armstrong of Hideaway Valley owns a property management business in Salt Lake City.
Seat A on the County Commission seat is wide open. The incumbent, Edwin Sunderland, is not seeking reelection. Three candidates are running for the open seat – Mike Bennett, Vivian Kunz and Scott Collard. Collard is the only candidate who has not gathered signatures.
Because Armstrong, Kunz and Bennett each got the required number of signatures prior to the convention, the ranked-choice voting system that is normally used at conventions won’t have the kind of impact in determining the party’s nominee it usually does.
That being said, LuAnn Greenwall, Republican county chair, says whoever gets the majority vote of the convention in the Seat A race (Bennett, Collard or Kunz) and Seat B race (Bartholomew or Armstrong) will be the Sanpete County Republican Party Convention nominee in the June 28 primary. But as a result of the signatures, other candidates will still be on the primary ballot.
Bennett is employed in the fertilizer industry in Nephi and has served as chairman of the Sanpete County Fair Board. Kunz is a realtor and lives in Indianola Valley, and Collard is vice president of Cache Valley Electric and is the former mayor of Fountain Green.
Greenwell says each candidate who gathered signatures had to have at least 300. She says the signatures were thoroughly checked by county government officials.
“They were carefully audited by the county clerk,” she said.
In another contested race, Kim Pickett, who is currently a member of the South Sanpete School Board, is one of two candidates running for a seat on the Utah State School Board. That seat covers roughly 10 counties in rural Utah. The finalist in this race will be chosen at the state convention.
Pickett still has two years left on the South Sanpete School Board term. So, if Pickett’s run for the Utah State School Board is unsuccessful, Pickett will remain in that position.
All candidates will have a table or booth set up in the school’s gymnasium for delegates seeking information during Thursday’s convention. Greenwell says candidates running for the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress will at least have a representative on hand.
The offices of county clerk, county attorney, county auditor and county sheriff are also up for election. However, the candidates currently in those positions are running unopposed.
The convention will begin with a meet-and-greet event at 6 p.m. The convention itself begins at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Sanpete Republicans have already chosen 42 delegates to the Utah State Republican Convention, which will be April 23 at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy.