Clerk, assessor races fuel speculation before convention
Delegates might oust two incumbent Democrats who hold elected office in Summit County during a nominating convention tonight.
"Because of events that have been happening nationwide and worldwide, this year presents an opportunity for Democrats to make gains in the state Legislature and in the county as well," Summit County Democratic Party Secretary Laura Bonham said.
When local Democrats convene at South Summit High School Wednesday at 7 p.m. at least one of the three candidates in the contest for the county clerk post will be eliminated. The three-way race pits incumbent Summit County Clerk Sue Follett against former County Clerk Kent Jones and Park City Senior Recorder Cindy LoPiccolo.
"[Delegates] will be listening to the county candidates who are in contested races and we will be voting," Bonham said.
Democrats tonight could decide their clerk’s race and the battle being waged by former Summit County Assessor Ron Perry against County Assessor Barbara Kresser. A candidate becomes the party’s nominee and avoids a primary election in June if they garner votes from 60 percent of the county delegates.
"There is a lot of campaigning going on," Bonham said.
From 1993 to 2002, Jones oversaw the Summit County Clerk’s Office as a Republican. He emerged this year, however, to challenge Follett on the Democratic ticket. Follett defeated Jones for the clerk position in 2002.
Jones was not immediately available for comment.
Much of the clerk’s role involves administering elections in the county. Among the other duties are assisting the Summit County Commission, maintaining records, overseeing business licensing and beer licensing and issuing passports.
LoPiccolo claims her experience sets her apart from the other candidates in the race. She has worked as a recorder in Park City for nine years and before that was a deputy city clerk in Thousand Oaks, Calif., LoPiccolo said.
Follett, a county employee for nine years, was working as former Summit County Sheriff Fred Eley’s secretary when she was elected almost four years ago.
"I honestly don’t know what to expect of course, I want to win," Follett said. "But my first priority is doing my job."
No Republican filed to run for clerk but the Democratic nominee will face a challenge in November from Desert Green Party member Kathy Dopp.
Meanwhile, at tonight’s convention, Perry will try to unseat Kresser, who replaced him as Summit County assessor in 1991. His last political race was against Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, who defeated Perry in a Democratic primary in 2004.
"What is Ron doing? If he loses this year, is he going to go for recorder next year?" Kresser said. "We’re a strong office and we’re really doing a good job, so I question his reasons."
Kresser, who has been the county’s tax assessor since the early ’90s, announced last fall she would retire.
"Everybody in the office has been to me and asked me to stay on. I feel good about the loyalty," she said, adding, "I’m confident."
But if elected, Perry claims he could decrease the County Assessor’s Office budget by roughly $25,000 by appraising some "select" commercial properties himself — instead of hiring outside firms.
"I’m a certified general appraiser which is the highest certification by the Utah State Tax Commission," Perry said.
"I don’t need to hire it out, I can look at the numbers and do it myself."
As assessor, Perry says he would also "pick my battles" in defending tax appeals to reduce costs to county government.
"I have higher qualifications than [Kresser]. She doesn’t have the certification I do," Perry said. "She had 16 years to increase her education in the abilities to run the assessor’s office. I don’t think she’s tried to achieve the next level of certification."
Perry came up one vote shy of eliminating Elliott from the County Commission contest at the Democrats’ 2004 nominating convention at Park City High School, he said.
"If you can avoid a primary, you avoid the expense," Perry added.
On Election Day, whomever Democrats choose as their nominee in the assessor race is slated to face Republican Eugene Lambert, who currently works in the Assessor’s Office.
"It’s likely that the assessor’s race will garner 60 percent of the (delegates’) votes," Bonham said, about the possibility of Democrats choosing their nominee tonight. "It’s just all numbers."
But politicians disagree about the importance of convention victories.
"There are two schools of thought I belong to the school of thought that thinks that primaries are good for the party," Bonham said. "It creates excitement and keeps people interested in the political process."
During tonight’s convention, Democrats running for state and federal offices are invited to deliver stump speeches. However, no decisions will be made in these contests until the state convention next month.
Other Democrats running for county offices who aren’t facing challenges within their party include: incumbent Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer; incumbent Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier; incumbent Summit County Recorder Alan Spriggs and Scott Mark, a candidate for sheriff.
Nobody filed to challenge Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme in November.
The Summit County Republican Party has a nominating convention scheduled at Treasure Mountain International School on April 25 at 7 p.m.
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