3-person primary set for Utah County attorney after GOP convention
With seven months until Election Day, one county race is already all-but done. At Saturday’s Utah County Republican Party convention, Sheriff Mike Smith was selected to be the party’s nominee over two challengers. Without any candidates seeking the office for other parties, Smith will be the only sheriff candidate on the ballot.
Introduced and endorsed by former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, Smith brought dozens of family, friends and colleagues to the makeshift stage.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the race for Utah County attorney. Significant attention has been paid to the race and incumbent David Leavitt, due to his advocacy for jury trials over plea deals and ruling out using the death penalty — moves opponents and critics have used to label him as “soft on crime.”
Taking in alternating applause and boos through his speech, with the occasional jeer, Leavitt reiterated his faith in jury trials and against the death penalty. Upon finishing his speech, the sitting county attorney stood beyond his time at the podium as boos rained down through the auditorium.
After the boos subsided, he walked off the stage and was asked by a delegate, “You have signatures, why do you need us?”
Not breaking his stride, Leavitt replied, “Because I want you to know the truth.”
Challenger Jeff Gray, a longtime attorney and member of the Utah Solicitor’s General Office, spoke about his record and tenure, including arguing two cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Gray also mentioned to the delegates his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police.
Adam Pomeroy, one of Leavitt’s deputies seeking the post, separated himself from Gray by arguing the difference in experience — Pomeroy is a prosecutor in Utah County while Gray works in the criminal appeals office of the Solicitor’s General Office based out of Salt Lake County.
In all, there were 1,489 delegates packed into the Cedar Valley High School gym, according to Utah County Republican Party Chair Skyler Beltran.
“I think that this group of 1,500 people are more invested, more knowledgeable, spent countless hours working on this and I think that the public appreciates that they put in the time and effort in narrowing down the ballot,” Beltran said.
State GOP Chair Carson Jorgensen spoke to the full group of the county elections, praising Utah County’s delegates for their work and commitment before heading to another convention. Salt Lake County, Beaver County and Washington County also held conventions on Saturday.
Everyone, from delegates to party leaders and elected officials, praised the convention system.
“I’m thrilled to see the excitement that’s going on. I’m thrilled to see there was competitiveness across almost every single race that’s out there,” County Commissioner Bill Lee said. “Anybody who can come with a good idea and speak to the good idea has a chance to run and make a difference. And that’s what I love about this system.”
U.S. Senate candidates Ally Isom and Laird Hamblin were given an opportunity to speak. Both Sen. Mike Lee and challenger Becky Edwards met with delegates earlier in the day but left before their speaking slots. Also speaking were both of the 4th District U.S. House candidates, Rep. Burgess Owens and Jake Hunsaker, and four 3rd District candidates — Rep. John Curtis, Jason Preston, Chris Herrod and Tim Aalders.
Total vote counts were only provided for the first round of voting in the county commission seats. Candidates who received 60% during any round of convention voting will be the party’s nominee; if no candidate finished with 60%, both finalists advance to the Republican primary. The primary will take place on June 28. Here are the results from Saturday’s convention:
County Commission seat A: In the first round of voting, incumbent Amelia Powers Gardner received 707 votes (49.4%), Renee Tribe received 443 votes (30.9%) and Steve Diamond received 281 votes (19.6%) Diamond was eliminated after the first round of voting. In the second round, Powers Gardner received 55.3% of the vote and Tribe finished with 44.7%.
County Commission seat B: In the first round of voting, the incumbent Lee collected 677 votes (47.3%) against Brandon Gordon’s 694 votes (48.5%) with Greg Graves coming in a distant third with 59 votes (4.1%). Graves was eliminated and in the second round Gordon led with 53.6% and Lee finished with 46.4%. The two will move on to the primary ballot.
County sheriff: Smith coasted to reelection after receiving 65% of the vote in the first, and only, round of balloting. Hyrum Cox earned 32.8% of the vote and Jeff Wabel ended with 2.2% of the vote. With no other candidates in the race, Smith will be the only name on the November ballot.
County attorney: After the first round of voting, Pomeroy led with 46.4% of the vote compared to 43.6% for Gray and 10% for Leavitt. The incumbent was eliminated before the second round of voting but will still be on the primary ballot due to the signature-gathering process. In the second round, Pomeroy finished with 53.6% support compared to Gray’s 46.4%.
County clerk: In the first election after the splitting of the clerk/auditor’s office into two roles, three candidates sought the spot. Aaron Davidson led after the first round of voting with 57.2% of votes compared to 25.3% for Russ Rampton and 17.4% for Heidi Balderee.
Rampton advocated for the position, which oversees elections in Utah County, to be run in a nonpartisan fashion to ensure the right to vote for both the voters in the majority and minority. Davidson, in his speech to delegates, said he is “adamantly against” universal mail-in voting and does not support ranked-choice voting.
In the second round, Davidson received 68% of votes, making him the party’s nominee in November, while Rampton collected 32%. Davidson will face a challenger from the Independent American Party in the general election.
County auditor: In the first election after the splitting of the clerk/auditor’s office into two roles, three candidates sought the spot. In the first round, Rod Mann received 38% of the vote, Rudy Livingston received 35.8% and Taylor Williams was eliminated with 26.2% of votes. Williams is the current deputy clerk/auditor and touted endorsements from Powers Gardner and Clerk/Auditor Josh Daniels. In the second round, Mann received 52.7% and Livingston picked up 47.3%. The two will advance to the primary.
State House 50: In the newly formed district west of Utah Lake, based around Eagle Mountain, Stephanie Gricius won with 53 of 88 votes. David Lifferth received 20 votes and Christian Loraine finished with 15. With no candidates for other parties, Gricius will be the only candidate on the November ballot for the seat.
State House 58: With 114 ballots cast, incumbent Keven Stratton received 105 votes compared to nine for challenger Jason Christensen. Stratton will face a Democratic challenger in the November election. District 58 includes part of east Orem extending into Utah County.
State House 65: Incumbent Doug Welton will be the party’s nominee for the south Utah County seat — which includes Payson, Santaquin and Elk Ridge — after collecting 69 votes. Challenger Jay Ugarte earned 33 votes.
State Senate 23: Incumbent Sen. Keith Grover picked up 57.2% of votes compared to Brandon Beckham’s 42.7%. Beckham, it was revealed in the days after filing to run, was charged with forcible sexual abuse. Both candidates advance to the primary.
On the other side of Utah Lake, the Utah County Democratic Party held its own convention on Saturday. According to Chair Katie Adams-Anderton, about 60-70 people attended and the process took two hours. In the only Democratic decision, data analyst Ann Schreck will be the party’s nominee for House District 53, which includes north American Fork and Lehi east of Interstate 15.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect updated voting figures for the state Senate District 23 race. The previous numbers, distributed in a public announcement of results, were erroneous.