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A Utah County voter’s guide to Tuesday’s all-mail GOP primary

Though Utah voters need to have their ballots mailed in or dropped off by Tuesday at 8 p.m., election officials say it could take days or even weeks for official results to be released.

The delay in results is due to changes made by the Utah State Legislature to the Republican primary election process in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those changes, according to Utah County Elections Director Rozan Mitchell, is that county election officials must quarantine paper ballots for at least 24 hours “to make sure that they’re virus-free.”

“So it is very likely that it could be 2-3 weeks before we know who won the governor’s race,” Mitchell said in an interview Monday.

Mitchell said Utah County would release its first batch of election results at 10 p.m. Tuesday and would put out results periodically throughout the three-week canvassing period.

Utah County voters can either submit their ballots by mail or by dropping them off at one of a number of curbside ballot drop boxes throughout the county.

Those who haven’t received a ballot as of Tuesday can get one at one of four outdoor ballot pickup locations: Brigham Young University’s LaVell Edwards Stadium; Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork; Spanish Fork Fairgrounds; and Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs.

“And it’s important that we say that those are ballot pickup locations, because they’re not voting locations,” said Mitchell about the drive-up locations. “The Legislature made that very clear when they passed House Bill 3006 that we could have no in-person voting.”

Voter turnout for Utah County was at about 28% on Friday, according to Mitchell, who added that she expected that number to increase significantly on Tuesday.

“I’m expecting that we’ll be somewhere in the neighborhood of 50%-60% voter turnout,” the elections director said.

What will be on Utah County’s ballot?Governor’s raceThe most prominent race on this year’s ballot is the one to replace Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not seeking reelection.

There are four Republican candidates vying to replace Herbert in the crowded GOP primary: Lt. Gov Spencer Cox, who has been at the forefront of Utah’s COVID-19 response as head of the state coronavirus task force; former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., who also served as United States Ambassador to China under President Barack Obama and Ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump; former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes; and former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright.

Republican Spanish Fork Sen. Deidre Henderson is running as Cox’s running mate while Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi is running with Huntsman. Wright selected former 1st Congressional District Republican Rep. Rob Bishop as his running mate while Washington County Commission Chair Victor Iverson is running alongside Hughes.

A Utah Policy and KUTV poll from June 22 shows a tight race between Cox, Huntsman and Hughes. Out of 1,188 likely voters surveyed, 34% said they would vote for Cox while 30% said Huntsman. Just over a quarter said they would vote for Hughes while 10% said Wright. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%.

Hughes performed best among strong conservatives while Cox was the more popular candidate among moderate Republicans, according to the poll. More than half of moderate voters said they would vote for Huntsman.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face off against Democratic candidate Chris Peterson, a business law professor at the University of Utah.

Attorney General’s raceIncumbent Attorney General Sean Reyes is running against Utah County Attorney David Leavitt on Tuesday in the race to be Utah’s top prosecutor.

The two Republican attorneys exchanged jabs in a heated debate earlier this month, with Leavitt criticizing Reyes for “a lack of supervision of county attorneys” and Reyes calling his opponent an “emperor” for wanting to “tell and dictate to the county attorneys what they would do.”

Both as a candidate for attorney general and as head of the Utah County Attorney’s Office, Leavitt has advocated for criminal justice reform and shifting the state away from a reliance on plea bargains as an alternative to jury trials.

“The one power that the founders never gave government was the power to decide someone’s guilt or innocence, to take away their liberty,” Leavitt said during the June 2 debate. “They reserved that power to themselves through the jury trial.”

Reyes called Leavitt’s position “quixotic” and said taking every case to trial was “economically out of the realm of reality.”

The winner Tuesday will compete in November against Democratic candidate Greg Skordas and Libertarian candidate Rudy Bautista, who are both Salt Lake-based attorneys.

4th Congressional District raceUtah Republican voters will choose Tuesday which of four GOP candidates will go on to compete against the only Democratic member of Utah’s congressional delegation, Rep. Ben McAdams.

The 4th Congressional District candidates include state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; former NFL player and Second Chance 4 Youth founder Burgess Owens; entrepreneur and venturecapital.org CEO Trent Christensen; and former KSL NewsRadio pundit Jay “JayMac” McFarland.

Each candidate has made their case for why they have the best shot at beating incumbent McAdams, a moderate Democrat who has worked across the aisle during his first term in Congress but has been criticized by his challengers for voting in December to impeach the president.

Coleman cited her experience in the Legislature and commitment to “the (conservative) values of my community and my constituents” while Christensen said he was the only candidate with experience in the private sector that could help the country recover from an economic downturn.

Owens said he would fight against the “enemy” that is “socialism and Marxism” and advocate for fiscally and socially conservative policies that “are good for all of our country.” McFarland, meanwhile, described himself as the least partisan candidate and the most likely to work and communicate with Democrats in Washington.

Coleman and Owens were the winners of the Utah Republican Party’s April convention with 54.5% and 45.5% of respective votes after six rounds of ranked choice voting. McFarland and Christensen both qualified for the primary by gathering signatures.

Coleman has the endorsement of former Rep. Mia Love, who held the 4th District seat before McAdams.

State House racesA number of incumbent state lawmakers were forced into primaries through signature-gathering or during the Utah County Republican Party convention.

Orem Rep. Keven Stratton, who has represented House District 48 since 2012, will compete against business owner and state and county delegate David Shallenberger. Stratton received 42.3% of delegate votes during the county convention while Shallenberger received 57.7.%.

Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, is running against conservative activist Merillee Boyack, who defeated Christofferson during the county convention with 62.4% of votes. Christofferson qualified for the primary by gathering signatures. Boyack led a push in February to have Lehi declare itself a “sanctuary city for the unborn.”

Provo Rep. Marsha Judkins, who sponsored a bill this year to require prosecutors and county jails to track data on race, gender and ethnicity, will compete against Kenneth Grover, whose twin brother, Sen. Keith Grover, R-Provo, previously held the House District 61 seat. Judkins advanced in the convention with 68.3% of votes while Grover, former principal of Innovations Early College High School in Salt Lake City, qualified through the signature-gathering process.

In the House District 66 race, retired Utah National Guard general and acting director of the Utah Department of Health Jefferson Burton will compete against Woodland Hills City Council member Kari Malkovich. Incumbent Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, withdrew his candidacy for reelection in March.

State Senate raceLongtime Provo Sen. Curt Bramble will compete against state and county delegate Sylvia Andrew in the Senate District 16 race. Andrew said she would fight to reduce government spending while encouraging increased investment in education while Bramble said he would continue efforts to tackle statewide tax reform.

Bramble received 58.3% of delegate votes at the state convention while Andrew received 41.7%.

County racesThe biggest countywide contest is the race for Utah County Commission Seat C, which is currently held by Commissioner Nathan Ivie, the first openly gay Republican to hold elected office in Utah.

Ivie, who along with Commissioner Tanner Ainge voted in December to increase the county-collected portion of property taxes by 67.4%, will compete against former Marine Tom Sakievich.

Sakievich has criticized Ivie’s vote to raise property taxes and said there are other ways to address the county’s budget deficits. Ivie defended the increase, which he said was necessary to fund essential government services.

In January, Ivie voted in favor of a resolution to let residents vote in November whether Utah County should change from a three-member commission to a mayor-council form of government.

Sakievich ran against Ainge in 2018 and was defeated in the primary.

In the Utah County Recorder race, Chief Deputy Recorder Andrea Allen is running against Brian Voeks, who is Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee’s senior policy advisor. Utah County Recorder Jeff Smith is not running for reelection.

Alyson Williams and Randy Boothe are both running for the Utah State School Board District 13 seat.

Medical student strives to do bang-up job with late friend's fireworks company

A local medical student is filling large shoes, hoping to spread joy throughout Utah County communities while honoring the legacy of a late friend.

Originally from Canada, Duncan Neil Lillico spent 12 years in Provo working for the Summerset Corporation and starting his own property development company. Additionally, Lillico founded a local fireworks company, Provo Fireworks.

Lillico died unexpectedly on Nov. 21, 2018, after experiencing a pulmonary embolism. He is survived by his wife and three children. After Lillico died, friend and fellow entrepreneur Brian Parker knew Lillico’s legacy could live on through his work.

“We were kindred spirits,” Parker said. “We got to know each other a little bit throughout over various, independent ventures.”

In June of 2019, which would have been one of the busiest seasons for the up-and-coming Provo Fireworks, Parker reached out to Lillico’s wife asking if he could do anything to help. Parker said she had previously told him that she had too much inventory.

Parker suggested taking the inventory and hosting a three-day buyers sale and cutting her a check for what sold. The sale went off without a hitch, and Parker wrote Lillico’s family a check for almost $70,000.

While Parker and Lillico’s wife were packing up after the sale, he asked her what she planned to do with the company, expecting that the family might dissolve it with Lillico gone.

Instead, Parker said she asked if he would like to take over Provo Fireworks, adding that Lillico would have wanted someone like Parker to have it.

“I was honored and excited,” he said. “That wasn’t my plan originally, but I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ ”

Parker said the venture couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Brigham Young University alumnus Parker is now a third-year medical student at the University of Utah.

Medical school, he said, is quite expensive and students are not permitted to work during the school year, so having the opportunity to oversee a seasonal company with a plethora of potential was just what Parker needed.

In one of his first acts as the new owner of the business, and to honor Lillico, Parker changed the name of the company from Provo Fireworks to Duncan’s Fireworks.

This year is the business’ first year under Parker, and to further honor Lillico’s memory and support his family, Duncan’s Fireworks is donating 10% of the business’ profits to Lillico’s family, this year and every year moving forward.

The rest of the money will go back into the business in an effort to grow the company and keep Lillico’s legacy alive.

“It’s important to me that, in Duncan’s honor, I keep trying to take care of the family,” Parker said. “The bigger the check I can cut them the better.”

While the name has changed, Parker said, as much as possible, he wants to keep Lillico’s business model the same. Provo Fireworks had become well-known for its prices, being able to sell the same fireworks from larger retailers at half the price.

Parker said he and Lillico appreciate the joy and wonder fireworks bring people of all ages, especially during celebratory times of the year, including the 4th of July, Pioneer Day and New Year’s Eve.

With Duncan’s Fireworks, Parker is hoping to continue the tradition of supplying affordable fireworks to Utah County residents in an effort to spread joy, especially with the state of the world.

Additionally, Lillico had used his company to build personal relationships within the community.

“He took a great interest in people,” he said. “It wasn’t about making money, it was just about sharing fireworks because he loved them and he loved people.”

Parker said he has always respected and admired the special understanding Lillico had with residents and consumers and wants to maintain that approach.

Looking forward, Parker said he hopes to continue to grow Duncan’s Fireworks to serve more and more communities and lend greater support to Lillico’s family each year.

Duncan’s Fireworks is currently looking to set up a second location in Salt Lake City for next year’s 4th of July season. Parker also has received some requests for franchise locations in Texas.

For now, Parker is focusing on the communities that Lillico cultivated relationships with, setting up shop in a tent located at 775 N. Main Street in Springville, just miles away from Lillico’s spot in previous years.

In Utah, fireworks are allowed to be sold from June 24 to July 25, from Dec. 29 to Dec. 31, and two days before and on the Chinese New Year.

Fireworks can be discharged between July 2-5 and July 22-25 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., except on July 4 and July 24, where the latest time is extended to midnight.

Utah wildfire destroys 1 home, evacuates 3,100 homes

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A wildfire that prompted the evacuation of about 3,100 homes on Sunday destroyed one home near Saratoga Springs and damaged 12 others, city officals said Monday.

The Knolls Fire started south of the community on the shore of Utah Lake on Sunday. It spread to about 15.6 square miles in strong winds and heat and was 25% contained as of Monday, according to the city.

Meanwhile, a wildfire sparked by fireworks in the Lehi area forced out residents of houses and an apartment building early Sunday before crews managed to turn back the blaze as it encroached on a neighborhood, officials said.

A suspect was cooperating with law enforcement, Utah Fire Info said in a tweet. Fireworks are prohibited in the area. Strong wind gusts had been reported in the area as the Traverse Fire grew to about 450 acres, the agency said.

Judge rules Utah County must release the names of businesses that created COVID-19 hotspots

A 4th District Court judge ruled Monday that Utah County must release the names of two businesses that created COVID-19 hotspots, resulting in 68 employees testing positive for the virus.

The two businesses in question were referred to in a May 4 announcement from the Utah County Commission and mayors throughout the county stating that contact tracing by the Utah County Health Department and Utah Department of Health found that the businesses “instructed employees to not follow quarantine guidelines after exposure to a confirmed case at work and required employees with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to report to work.”

Those claims were later walked back by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, who told reporters during a May 26 press conference that “there were not two business who were forcing employees to work (while sick),” though he confirmed that there were in fact two businesses linked to 68 positive cases.

“That was information that was not right,” Leavitt said. “It was information that was communicated ... (out of) an abundance of caution from the Health Department (and) from the County Commission. And as we’ve gotten deeper into the issue, we’ve learned that the assertions weren’t true.”

The Daily Herald filed a public records request on May 6 requesting information about the two businesses. Utah County denied that request on May 8, stating that the requested information “was obtained during an epidemiological investigation” and therefore “is strictly confidential under Utah Code 26-6-27.”

An appeal of the records request denial filed by the Daily Herald on June 8 was rejected by the county on June 12.

On May 19, attorney Michael Patrick O’Brien sent a letter to Utah County commissioners Tanner Ainge, Bill Lee and Nathan Ivie on behalf of multiple media outlets — including the Daily Herald — arguing that the code in question only applies to the names of individuals, not businesses, and stating that the media outlets would be prepared to go to court if the county didn’t release the business names.

KSL-TV filed a lawsuit in Utah’s 4th District Court on June 2 arguing that “the County’s position that the records are non-public is erroneous, and the Court should order the release of the requested records.”

“More specifically, the County’s classification of the requested records as ‘private,’ ‘controlled,’ and ‘protected,’ and refusal to release the records to KSL, is unlawful, and the Court should order their release,” wrote Jeff Hunt, an attorney representing KSL-TV.

After oral arguments by both parties on Monday, 4th District Court Judge Christine Johnson ruled in favor of KSL-TV, according to court transcripts, meaning Utah County is required to release the names of the two businesses.

“The court orders the specified documents to be produced and provided within 48 hours from today,” court transcripts from Monday said.

When asked for comment on the ruling, Ainge said Utah County “had real concerns that releasing information connected with an epidemiological investigation would violate the strict confidentiality requirement attached to such information.”

“Now the 4th District Court has ruled, which makes it clear we can and should disclose — which we are more than happy to comply with,” the commission chair said. “As the records are released from the health department and/or County Attorney’s office, the County Commissioners will be seeing this information for the first time along with the media. That’s how serious our health department has taken their responsibility for strict confidentiality.”

Ivie referred questions about the 4th District Court ruling to Leavitt, who he said was handling the matter. The Utah County Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.

“I naturally feel that government records should be open and transparent and was leaning that way until our Attorney’s office concluded that the commission did not have the authority to release the information,” Lee said in a text message. “It is best that a court cleared up this issue, which they did and we will follow.”