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Brown nearly booted

A Wanship Republican defeated incumbent state Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, at the state convention for the Utah Republican Party.

In delegate voting on Saturday, political newcomer Jon Hellander beat Brown 33-25. The vote sets the stage this summer for a Republican primary election in the race for House District 53, which includes most of Summit County.

A candidate needed 60 percent of the votes from the delegates to eliminate his opponent and avoid a primary election June 22. Hellander received nearly 57 percent of the votes.

"I will stand and fight for limited government," Hellander said.

Neighborhoods in Summit, Wasatch, Morgan, Rich and Daggett counties belong to District 53. Hellander said he would vote more conservatively than Brown on issues important to rural Utah.

"The conservative movement is the way that most people on farms and ranches were raised, with those types of ideals instilled in their minds from their parents and grandparents," Hellander said.

Hellander criticized lawmakers who voted this year to increase the sales tax on tobacco products.

Meanwhile, with a new charter school in the Park City area set to take students away from public schools in Summit County, Hellander said he is a supporter of charter schools.

"Charter schools are the best thing that could happen to the public school system. They hold the teachers accountable. They hold the administration accountable and they offer options for the parents," Hellander said. "Since when do you as a parent not want to have an option for making decisions based on your children and their education?"

But some educators say charter schools damage public education by taking students and funding away from school systems.

"Regardless of what all the charter school proponents are telling you, they are taking money from public education," said Matt Leavitt, a member of the South Summit Board of Education.

Leavitt was a delegate at the state Republican convention, who voted in the race for District 53. The results on Saturday surprised him.

"It floored me," Leavitt said about Brown’s defeat.

Hellander’s support for charters shows he is not the candidate who will support public schools, Leavitt said.

"I’m scared for public education," Leavitt said.

In his speech on Saturday, Brown told delegates that his seniority on Capitol Hill is critical in fighting for the issues important to people in Summit County.

"It’s a process that takes some understanding," Brown said. "It’s a process that takes some tenure."

He will continue standing up for the rights of property owners, Brown said.

"Each one of us wants to own a piece of this good Earth, private property," Brown said. "And I think those rights are being invaded."

The makeup of District 53 is heavily Republican. With a round of legislative redistricting on the horizon, Brown pledged to fight to keep the district a GOP stronghold.

"There are some problems facing our community. One of those is reapportionment and redistricting," Brown said. "We need to be able to protect that so Republicans can be elected in our district as they have been for the past several years."

The state Legislature redraws political districts every 10 years based on Census numbers.

Other convention news

In a move that made national headlines, convention-goers on Saturday ousted U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett. The Republican was seeking his fourth term in office. Republican delegates picked businessman Tim Bridgewater and attorney Mike Lee to face off in the primary election.

Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, who represents Summit County in Utah’s 1st Congressional District, was nominated for a fifth term.

The Republicans nominated Gov. Gary Herbert in the governor’s race.


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