Republicans pine for votes
David Ure and Kevin Van Tassell were strangers to voters in certain parts of District 26 in the Utah Senate when campaigning started.
But since the spring, the two Republicans have tried to introduce themselves to the disparate parts of the district, running from resort-driven Summit County to the rural reaches of the Uintah Basin.
The two men on Tuesday will vie for the GOP’s nomination for the Senate seat, which the retiring Beverly Evans, a Republican from Altamont, now holds.
The campaign between Ure and Van Tassell, like lots of others so far this year, has featured few political fireworks, likely a result of the primary being held in the summer, when many people are not as interested in politics.
The winner in November faces Roland Uresk, a Democrat from Roosevelt, and Constitution Party candidate Sonya Ray, who is from Vernal.
Ure, who is well known in Summit and Wasatch counties from his long career in the state House of Representatives, acknowledges that, to win the nomination, he has to muster votes in the Uintah Basin, where Van Tassell is expected to have a strong showing.
But he laments that, even with lots of campaigning in the eastern parts of the district, he is unsure if he has convinced enough voters.
"I can hit all the issues right. I can say the things that need to be corrected in the Uintah Basin," Ure, a 54-year-old dairy farmer from Kamas, says, admitting that such campaigning might not be enough to win on Tuesday. "This is a campaign about where you live."
Ure has proved a political powerhouse in the 53rd District of the House of Representatives, where he represented much of Summit County. In the last decade, he easily defeated a series of Democratic challengers and became one of the most powerful men in the House, serving as the majority whip.
"I have the experience of knowing how to get things done at the Capitol," Ure says.
He says his current campaign for the Senate, though, has been difficult. He says he has pressed issues like road improvements, including upgrading the Kimball Junction interchange, waterworks projects, school upgrades and taxes. But the issues, he says, are being overshadowed by the two candidates’ addresses. He charges that Van Tassell is running a, "no-issues" campaign, relying on Uintah Basin background to win the primary.
From Vernal, Van Tassell, it seems, has little experience in Summit County. He talks about his banking career — he works for Zions Bank — and his service on a hospital board in Duchesne County.
Van Tassell says, though, that each time he drives to Salt Lake City, he passes through much of the district, including Summit County. He calls Parkites a "dynamic group of people."
Van Tassell says he must learn more about the westernmost portion of the district.
"I would say I’m a long way from where I need to be," he says about his knowledge of the issues in the Park City area, adding that he has "made some good contact there."
If he wins on Tuesday, Van Tassell expects to learn more about Summit County through meetings with officials at school districts, chambers of commerce and government leaders.
Van Tassell says he wants the government to leave the private sector alone and says that he wants the state budget reprioritized. He says, for instance, that surplus monies should be earmarked for schools and roads and other infrastructure, which he says is good for the state’s future business prospects.
"We don’t want to complicate business," he says.
Van Tassell says that he wants the Statehouse to support tourism, perhaps by better state funding. That, he says, is a smart investment for Utah.
Ure, meanwhile, admits that people in the easternmost parts of the district are peeved with the Statehouse. He says that they see the state government as having ignored them even as revenues from oil and gas flowed into the Statehouse from the region. He has spent 22 days campaigning in the Uintah Basin since May, Ure says.
"They feel like they’ve been left behind," he says.
District 26 encompasses parts of Summit, Wasatch, Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah counties. In Summit County, the West Side and parts of the East Side, generally west of S.R. 32, are within the district. Parts of Kamas, Marion, Peoa and Francis, all on the East Side, are in the district.
Only people who are registered Republicans or who are unaffiliated but declare themselves as Republicans at the polls are allowed to vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
For a list of polling places visit http://www.summitcounty.org or call the Summit County Clerk’s Office at 615-3203 or (435) 336-3203.
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