Here are the candidates I support for the Utah County 2022 Republican Primary Election:
Amelia Powers Gardner for Commission Seat A
Brandon Gordon for Commission Seat B
Jeff Gray for County Attorney
Rudy Livingston for County Auditor
What follows is an analysis of each race and the candidates, followed by my thoughts on the county positions without primaries and some final thoughts on the process.
Commission Seat A: Amelia Powers Gardner
Amelia has the vision and skill set that is necessary to continue forward progress in Utah County. She thinks about the future and how technology can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of government while still remaining true to her principles as a small government fiscal conservative.
Meanwhile, Renee Tribe’s biggest talking points are about things she is against rather than what she is for. The county commission has little to no jurisdiction in those matters which include digital driver’s licenses, voting, marriage, etc.
The republican nominee will end up facing off against a perennial democrat challenger and an unaffiliated candidate in November.
Full disclaimer: I first met Amelia when she was Amelia Mitchell and a college freshman in a student leadership program for which I was the advisor. I immediately recognized her as a force to be reckoned with. During that time (and since) we haven’t always agreed. I was particularly skeptical when she suggested that I take her older sister on a date. I’m glad I at least considered that idea. Her sister Amanda and I just celebrated 18 years of marriage.
Commission Seat B: Brandon Gordon
Brandon would bring a much needed new perspective to the commission. His experience on the Spanish Fork city council gives him the necessary experience in local government issues including budgeting, roads and water.
Bill Lee has been in office too long and is too self-serving. His biggest concern when fighting against Prop 9 was the consolidation of power into a mayor. But he had no problem attempting to move the key aspects of budget development from the auditor and to put it under the commissioners. (He actually did it, but then immediately reversed course after the public outcry.) He also had no issues separating the Clerk/Auditor position without getting input from the public or looking at long-range data and costs projections.
His final proposed budget for 2022 was shared with the other two commissioners (and the public) only 40 minutes prior to the meeting where the budget was adopted. When Commissioner Powers Gardner began raising some concerns about Lee’s proposed budget, and countering with proposals of her own, Commissioner Sakievich moved to end debate and vote. As commission chair, Lee suspended the rules to second the motion and they moved to the vote with no further discussion. Commissioner Powers Gardner had raised those same concerns in a work session a few days earlier and neither Lee nor Sakievich addressed those concerns or explained their justifications for the proposed budget . All of this is in contradiction to his avowed values of “balanced government” and “transparency.”
Yes, this is more anti-Bill Lee than pro-Brandon Gordon. But it doesn’t do any good to replace a bad commissioner with an ineffective one. Brandon Gordon has the requisite experience to make a positive contribution as a commissioner on day one.
The winner of the republican primary will be unopposed in the November Election.
County Attorney: Jeff Gray
David Leavitt’s actions of the past few years and particularly the past week (Beginning June 1) demonstrate his ineffectiveness in the office.
I always leaned toward supporting Gray, though I really liked Adam Pomeroy as well. If it was just those two, it would be a tough call. I commend Adam in "taking one for the team" to ensure that Leavitt is defeated which is the number one goal.
Jeff Gray has the experience and commitment necessary to turn around the County Attorney’s office. I’m glad that Adam Pomeroy will remain a part of that team and look forward to seeing his name on the ballot in the future.
The winner of the republican primary will be unopposed in the November Election.
County Auditor: Rudy Livingston
I've worked with Rudy and appreciate the hard work he's done and his very impressive resume. He is approachable and down-to-earth, but he is also an expert in local government finance. With his conservative principles, professional ethics, and vast experience the finances of Utah County would be safe in his very capable hands.
I don't know much about Rod Mann, and don’t really have anything bad to say about him. I think Rod could be a good Auditor. I know Rudy would be a great auditor.
For the races without Primaries:
Sheriff: Mike Smith
Sheriff Smith a consummate law enforcement professional and administrator. He deserved to win his nomination on the first ballot of the convention. He is unopposed in November.
County Clerk: ??????
I am very concerned about this position. Aaron Davidson won the nomination mostly because he fed red meat to delegates who have bought into repeatedly debunked theories of election fraud. I can understand the nostalgia of returning to in person voting, but they have not thought through the required logistics or expenses. Most people understand voting. Very few understand the challenges of election administration.
Election fraud is prevented through a series of processes and safeguards. Most of the ones that I would have championed have already been put in place by the current elections officials. Unlike Aaron Davidson I would not promise to search for duplicate records on the voter rolls or to post precinct level results to the website. Not because those aren’t good ideas, but because they are practices that are already in place. Utah County Elections even won a national award for linking precinct data (which has always been publicly available) to online mapping systems with a clear user interface and dynamic display.
My predictions are that Aaron Davidson will be completely unsuccessful in his efforts to repeal Utah's vote-by-mail system. His preference for voters to return their ballots in person and show ID (without being able to prevent traditional vote-by-mail or drop boxes) would require extra resources and delay counting without providing any meaningful extra security.
I recognize that much of this may sound like sour grapes from a losing candidate. I was a far from ideal candidate, but when it was clear that no one was running who I could support, I entered the race myself. I purposefully chose to defend vote-by-mail because I decided that if I was going to lose, I would lose telling the truth. If I had to do it over again I would probably change the tone of my messaging and increase my efforts in reaching out to voters and spending more time responding to concerns. But I wouldn’t have changed my positions.
In the November election Aaron Davidson will face off against Jake Oaks of the Independent American Party. I know little about Oaks’ platform, though it looks like we disagree on in-person voting vs. vote-by-mail. I’ve seen some general platitudes, but no specifics. I respect his constitutional principles, but am somewhat put off by his religious rhetoric. Not that religion doesn’t have a place in the public sphere or that we shouldn’t have elected officials with religious-based morals. I am concerned that he doesn’t leave a lot of space for governing in a pluralistic society where there isn’t agreement on religious principles.
There is no one on the ballot for Utah County Clerk that I can enthusiastically support.
We end up getting the government that we deserve, and decisions are made by the people who participate. I’ve made my preferences clear, and truly believe that the residents of Utah County and their rights and their futures will be better with candidates I support.
But I also understand that reasonable people can disagree with me on these and other issues. That is the beauty of the American system. We talk, we debate, we vote, we accept the outcomes and we go back to talking. The constant conversation and exchange of ideas interrupted by period decision making is the lifeblood of our civil society.
In the end, I trust our institutions of government enough to know that even if candidates with whom I don’t agree get elected, the separations of power and our nation’s commitment to self government will balance everything out in the long run.