A Republican from Vernal just cannot make inroads in Democratic Park City | ParkRecord.com

A Republican from Vernal just cannot make inroads in Democratic Park City

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Kevin Van Tassell on Election Day handily won a second term in the state Senate.

But he cannot thank his constituents in Park City and the Snyderville Basin for returning him to the Capitol.

Van Tassell, a Republican from the Vernal area, throttled his opponent, Basin Democrat Paul Dowland, in the other counties of the expansive district. His results in Summit County were not as impressive — Dowland took the county with nearly 60 percent of the votes.

The outlying parts of the district — places like Uintah and Duchesne counties, as well as Wasatch County — kept Van Tassell in office as he won 71.4 percent of the votes throughout the district, according to the unofficial count taken Tuesday night. In Uintah and Duchesne counties, he captured more than 89 percent of the votes, a political thumping that stands out even in a year of great GOP successes.

Van Tassell campaigned in Summit County, participating in a candidate forum in the Basin just before Election Day, as an example. Summit County typically leans toward the Democratic Party, but the local support of Van Tassell seems particularly low. Mel Brown, another conservative Republican legislator, managed to decisively win Summit County on Tuesday, taking 51.7 percent of the vote as he was re-elected to another term in the House of Representatives on the strength of his local showing combined with wider victories in the other counties in the district.

"It’s one of those things," Van Tassell said, adding, "We’ll continue to work on it."

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Van Tassell sees his legislative record as being appealing to people in Summit County, saying that he supported reforms in state alcohol laws that were received well within Park City’s tourism industry. He said he has also worked on issues involving cleaner-burning energies, a popular topic in Park City, and legislation focusing on burying power lines, another issue of note locally.

Van Tassell plans to meet with representatives of the hospitality industry next week, probably during a visit to Park City. He said the industry representatives want to discuss legislative issues, but he did not have details midweek.

Van Tassell, a banker, won the Senate seat in 2006, succeeding another Republican, Beverly Evans. He has not been able to make some of the inroads in Summit County that she did, though.

In her last campaign, in 2002, Evans won nearly 71 percent of the district-wide vote, and she almost matched her Democratic opponent in Summit County. She won 46.9 percent of the votes in Summit County that year.

The 2010 campaign could have been the last one with the West Side of Summit County within Van Tassell’s district. 2014, the next time the seat is on the ballot, the Legislature will have redrawn the legislative maps based on this year’s census numbers. It is unlikely that Summit County’s population will have grown enough to warrant its own Senate district, but the legislative mapmakers could make shifts that would put the Park City area into a different district.

Van Tassell had the backing of the Summit County Republican Party as voters went to the polls on Tuesday. Henry Glasheen, the party chairman in Summit County, said the local GOP apparatus hosted the senator at several events during the campaign season. Glasheen said Van Tassell’s record is solid on issues that are important in Summit County.

Glasheen said many voters in Summit County are not familiar with Van Tassell’s work at the Capitol and said Van Tassell hasn’t "done anything to offend anyone." He said Democratic turnout was high on Tuesday in Summit County as voters were drawn to the gubernatorial contest and ballot measures about land conservation and a tax for recreation, arts and parks.

"Those particular Democrats have never really heard Kevin," Glasheen said.

Voters on Tuesday also kept the two incumbents in the House of Representatives districts that cover Summit County — Brown in District 53 and Joel Briscoe in District 25. The results:

District 53: Mel Brown, Republican, 59.3 percent; Glenn Wright, Democrat, 35.8 percent; Clyde Beutler, Constitution, 4.9 percent. In Summit County, Brown took 51.7 percent of the vote to Wright’s 45.2 percent.

District 25: Joel Briscoe, Democrat, 71.7 percent; Rick Raile, Republican, 28.3 percent. In Summit County, Briscoe won 61.5 percent of the ballots while Raile took 38.5 percent.

Other Summit County results included:

In the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat, Democrat Sam Granato captured 53.2 percent to Republican Mike Lee’s 43.8 percent. Lee won the statewide balloting.

In the campaign for the congressional seat representing Summit County, the incumbent, Republican Rob Bishop, took 51.1 percent of the vote to Democrat Morgan Bowen’s 43.1 percent. Bishop won the district-wide vote as well.

In the gubernatorial campaign, Democrat Peter Corroon won 52.3 percent of the ballots to Republican Gary Herbert’s 44 percent. Herbert, the incumbent, won the statewide vote.