Summit County’s political divide is crystal clear
Precinct results prove: Democrats own the west, Republicans sweep the east
The Park Record
When Summit County’s two new council members are sworn in next month, five of the five seats will be filled by Democrats. That is exactly what residents on the East Side feared when the old three-member commission, with its tacit agreement to reserve one seat for each distinct region of the county, was abandoned in favor of a five-member council with each seat elected at large.
Like most of Utah, residents on the East Side of Summit County vote predominantly for Republican candidates. Of the county’s 45 precincts, 17 are located east of U.S. 40 and in 14 of those, the majority sided with every Republican candidate on the ballot.
The West Side’s allegiance to the Democratic Party is just as strong, with voters in 24 of 28 precincts casting majority votes for every nominee on the blue side of the ticket.
The bluest of Summit County’s blue precincts this year was Old Town South with 80 percent of those casting straight ballots pulling the Democratic lever and only 13 going Republican. In that staunchly liberal Park City neighborhood, 77 percent of the voters supported Hillary Clinton and only 14 percent picked Donald Trump.
Old Towners also picked Democrats Misty Snow for the U.S. Senate, Peter Clemens over U.S. Rep Rob Bishop, Mike Weinholtz for governor and Rudi Kohler for the state House District 54. They also supported Democrats Doug Clyde and Glenn Wright for the two contested seats on the Summit County Council.
Over on the far north end of the county, however, voters were just as loyal to the Republican candidates in every single race. Of the North Summit residents opting for a straight ticket, 82 percent voted Republican and 11 percent voted Democratic –- a clear mandate, if ever there was one. In the individual races Republicans Donald Trump, Mike Lee, Rob Bishop, Gary Herbert, Logan Wilde, Colin DeFord and Tal Adair, won by similarly impressive margins.
Only five precincts logged mixed results. In Jeremy Ranch West Republicans Mike Lee and Tal Adair eked out slim leads. In Ranch Road (which includes White Pine Canyon and Quarry Mountain) Colin DeFord was the only Republican to outpace his Democratic challenger. In Upper Silver Creek — which arguably straddles the great political dividing line north of the Interstate 80/US 40 intersection — state House candidate Tim Quinn and U.S. Representative Mike Lee pulled ahead in an otherwise Democratic showing.
The only other nearly bipartisan precinct was Oakley. In one of the most interesting races of the election West Side Republican Colin DeFord faced East Side Democrat Doug Clyde. For voters in Oakley it was a particularly vexing dilemma – whether to vote for their hometown candidate, Clyde, even though he had filed as a Democrat, or their favored party candidate DeFord, despite his West Side address. The final vote count was 328 to 328, a dead heat.
Clyde, who serves on the East Side Planning Commission saw the split vote as a positive endorsement. “I was not expecting to outperform the Republican candidate (on the East Side), he said adding, “It was gratifying that, in many cases, my neighbors know me and trust me.”
As to whether East Siders will receive a fair hearing from the soon to be all-Democratic council, Clyde offered his reassurance that they will.
“The bottom line is that I don’t think we are much of a partisan body. The East Side’s issues are very important. They were a huge part of my platform,” he said.
Republican Tal Adair, who lost to Democrat Glenn Wright for the other council seat, isn’t so sure.
Adair was appointed to fill the last two years of former council member David Ure term. When asked the same question, whether the East Side will be fairly represented by the new council, Adair said, “No.”
According to Adair, the culture in North and South Summit differs significantly from the West Side. “They have their own sense of community and values.”
Republican candidates face uphill battle in Summit County
Four of the five seats on the Summit County Council were open this election season, but the county’s Republican Party was only able to enlist candidates for two of the races. Democrats Roger Armstrong and Kim Carson ran unopposed. According to Adair, who serves as the county Republican party’s chair, it was hard to find citizens who were willing to run in such a blue county.
While registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats on the official rolls, on Election Day, Summit County voters typically lean to the left. This year, in particular, Adair said his campaign was hurt by the top of the ticket. County wide, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 15 points.
Adair might have had better luck in 2012 when Summit County voters turned out for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney giving him a 5 percent lead, locally, over Democrat Barack Obama.
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