After online Democratic convention, County Councilor Roger Armstrong is poised to retain his seat, while Malena Stevens and Canice Harte are set for June primary
Only one contested Summit County Council race remains after Thursday’s virtual Democratic county convention, with Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioners Canice Harte and Malena Stevens set for a June 30 primary and two-term County Councilor Roger Armstrong winning his party’s nomination outright over newcomer Jill Fellow.
While Harte secured more delegates than Stevens, 56 to 48, he failed to break the 60% threshold necessary to win the nomination at the convention, according to results released by the Summit County Democratic Party.
Armstrong, meanwhile, secured 93 votes to Fellow’s 11, winning his party’s nomination and virtually assuring him a third term on the council, barring a successful write-in campaign. The winner of the primary between Stevens and Harte will also be positioned to serve on the council, as no Republicans are running for the open council seats.
Delegates also nominated incumbents Stephanie Larsen for county assessor, Rhonda Francis for county recorder and Corrie Forsling for county treasurer. They will all run unopposed.
The party also affirmed incumbent County Council Chair Doug Clyde as its candidate for County Council Seat B, and chose its delegates for the Democratic state convention. Full results, including a list of delegates, can be found at scdems.org.
Harte and Stevens said they were excited to move on to the primary process in which thousands of Summit County residents can weigh in on the selection, as opposed to the 104 Democratic delegates who voted Thursday.
If seven more of those delegates voted for Harte rather than Stevens, he would have attained the necessary 60% threshold and been able to sidestep a primary. As it is, he secured around 54% of the vote, which would be enough to win come June 30.
In an interview Friday, Harte said the coronavirus pandemic changed the makeup of the race, shifting from well-worn issues of transportation and growth toward economic recovery. He touted his business acumen as being vital in coming months.
“In this time, now more than ever, my 14 years in the county and lifetime in business and entrepreneurialism is important,” Harte said. “We have to dig out of an economic hole and a financial reality that is critical for our community, and my skill set and experience lends itself perfectly to that.”
Stevens said she has the leadership style necessary to work together with the four other councilors to help the county address the crisis brought on by the pandemic. She added that her background in mental health and government service will be assets going forward and that the current councilors already have strong business experience.
“Canice has some business experience and my experience is in government and mental health,” Stevens said. “It’s going to come down to, when we look at the council as it stands currently, what type of experience do we need to complement the four council members that we have and their current skill sets and perspectives.”
In the race for Seat A, Armstrong won handily over Fellow, the chair of the Utah Democratic Women’s Caucus.
Armstrong thanked the delegates for their support and said he was pleased he’d be able to continue to pursue the council’s strategic goals. More importantly, he said, he’s grateful for the opportunity to focus on the enormous public health and economic challenges at hand.
After coming up short seeking what would have been her first elected office, Fellow said she was happy she ran and believes challenging established leadership is key to diversifying the voices at the table making decisions.
“Our community needs a more inclusive political process with more diverse voices at the table, and I have enjoyed activating this conversation,” Fellow wrote in an email Friday. “I still believe that candidates should not run unopposed. Even in times of crisis, the dialogue brought up during campaigns helps to guide and shape our future and our efforts. This is what democracy looks like, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
She said she would continue to actively support campaigns and did not rule out running for office in the future.
Thursday’s convention was something of an experiment as, for the first time, delegates cast their votes using an online platform. Democratic Party Chair Meredith Reed reported it was a success, with a 100% response rate.
“(That’s) never happened before,” she said.
She said she’d like to take successful parts of the virtual caucus and convention and incorporate them into the party’s system moving forward, but that it shouldn’t come at the expense of gathering together. She said that there is a sense of community that is irreplaceable when the party gathers in person, and that talking to and meeting the candidates is important.
“We’ve increased access to participation, which is a great thing,” she said. “If there’s a way to create a hybrid, I’m all for it.”
Next up for Harte and Stevens is a June 30 primary. The winner will earn the Democratic nomination for County Council Seat C, currently held by retiring Councilor Kim Carson. The winner will be the only name on the ballot in November, virtually assuring that the council will remain 100% Democratic for at least the next two years.
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