Lack of contested races for November election seen as rare
Summit County’s incumbents have used the phrases “shocked” and “rare” to describe the absence of candidates challenging them for their Summit County government positions that are up for election in November.
Some, including Summit County Democratic Party Chair Cheryl Butler, argue the lack of challengers is indicative of the community’s support for the elected leaders.
“We have a tremendous group of county officials, and I think this demonstrates the trust and faith that the community has in these folks,” Butler said. “I was pleasantly surprised, though, because in the past there has been at least one or more of those seats that have been contested.”
Two seats on the Summit County Council, as well as four department head roles, including sheriff and county attorney, are up for election. The filing window to declare as a candidate closed last week, leaving the county races uncontested.
Summit County Councilors Chris Robinson and Glenn Wright, along with Sheriff Justin Martinez, County Attorney Margaret Olson, Clerk Kent Jones and Auditor Michael Howard — all registered Democrats — look to retain their positions for another four years.
Brantley Eason, Summit County Republican Party chair, said he spoke with several people who expressed interest in mountain a campaign. However, it “wasn’t the right time for them to jump in.”
“We had a lot of conversations, but no one was ready,” he said. “I don’t think everyone is happy with the state of things in our county. But, if you look at the people who are running now, some of them used to be Republicans. Maybe some people look at that and think they are still Republicans at heart so they figure they can live with that.”
Eason also blamed the time commitment and salaries as other factors that may have prevented people from entering the fray.
“You’ve got people that can’t spend as much time in office, such as on the County Council,” he said. “That takes up a lot of time and people have full-time jobs and life situations they are trying to handle.”
This will be the second time in as many elections that two County Councilors will be running unopposed. Kim Carson and Roger Armstrong were elected to another four-year term on the Council after running unopposed in the 2016 election.
Robinson, who is seeking his fourth term, said he fully expected to face a challenger and was surprised no one filed against him. He added, “I don’t think it is a good trend.”
“It’s a weird deal and I don’t know what to think of it,” he said. “When I filed the three previous times, I had a challenger. Maybe it is indicative of the way most people feel. Hopefully, they do support the kind of initiatives I have taken on.”
Martinez said he was stunned that no one filed for any of the offices, including his. Martinez, like Robinson, said he planned on mounting a full campaign.
“I had prepared myself mentally to take on an opponent and I was anticipating a campaign,” he said. “Hopefully, this means the community is satisfied with the job that we are doing at the Sheriff’s Office and didn’t feel the need to put an opponent up against me.”
The county attorney’s position appeared to be perhaps the most ripe for a challenger. Olson was appointed to her position over a handful of other candidates after the unexpected death of former County Attorney Robert Hilder. She has been in office for less than a year.
“Since my appointment, I was preparing on organizing a campaign and was fully prepared to run hard,” she said. “To my shock and surprise there was no opponent that filed. I’m just now trying to reorganize my thoughts and plans for the next four years. This is not what I was planning for though.”
While the filing window has closed and only the incumbents names will be on the ballot, write-in candidates have until 65 days before the November election to file with the Clerk’s Office to be considered a legitimate candidate.
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The Coalville native doesn’t see any major roadblocks for this year’s fair, though presenting in front of the County Council is a little nerve wracking.