Sunderland feels ‘really fortunate’ to win commission primary
By James Tilson
MANTI—The primary election has just wrapped up, but the vacant seat for Sanpete County Commissioner has probably been filled.
Edwin Sunderland won the Republican Party nomination for the commission seat being vacated by Claudia Jarrett. He did so by defeating Justin Atkinson on Tuesday, June 26 by approximately 55 to 45 percent.
Since Sanpete County is overwhelmingly Republican, his election in November is virtually assured.
Sanpete County Clerk Sandy Neill said the final vote count from the primary would not be released until Tuesday July 3 (after press time), when the county commission officially canvases the results.
Neill said there were just under 100 absentee and provisional votes yet to be tallied, and nearly 70 votes that will not be counted for technical reasons. However, votes still to be tallied would not be enough to change the election result.
Ed Sunderland said he “feels really fortunate” to have won. He described Justin Atkinson a “really good competitor.”
“I really want to thank everyone who voted for me,” he said. “In the future, I want everyone to know that I have an open door whenever anyone needs to talk to me.”
When asked what he wanted to concentrate on in office, Sunderland said it would be hard to know until he got his feet wet.
But he said he does have a few issues in mind. He wants to look into the county zoning ordinances, especially the requirement that a person have 5 acres in order to build a home in the unincorporated area. He said “5-acre lots lead to a lot of weed patches for the people who don’t have the proper equipment.”
Sunderland also said a number of people have asked him about dust on the roads during the summer.
But the most important issue for Sunderland is the county’s tax structure. “I’m really conservative when it comes to taxes.” He said he wanted to know where the money goes.
Atkinson wished Sunderland the best as the Republican nominee for commissioner. “I love Sanpete County, and I wish the best for Edwin.”
Atkinson said he knew that he faced an “uphill battle” because of his position on SB 54, the measure which permits people to get on the ballot by gathering signatures. The Utah Republican Party has opposed SB 54.
However, he is happy with how he ran his campaign. He pointed out that his percentages went up through the primaries, and he felt gathering signatures was the right thing to do. “I wanted to give a voice back to the people,” he said.
Atkinson said he would consider running for countywide office again “if the opportunity presented itself.” He explained that he did not run for commission as part of a strategy for gaining higher office, but did acknowledge it seems to be a pattern for an office holder to gain experience by going from local office to county and then state office.
Sunderland will have no Democratic opponent, nor any minor-party opposition in the November general election. Anyone can register as a write-in candidate for the commission or other offices up to Sept. 7.
As of this week, Sanpete County had 12, 631 registered voters. Of those, 8,060, or 63.8 percent, are Republican. There are 661, or 5 percent, who are registered Democrats. And there are 3,492 unaffiliated voters, or 27.6 percent of the Sanpete electorate. That leaves 418 voters who list 10 other political affiliations (including “other”).