Record editorial: Lack of GOP candidates for county positions mars election year
It will be a lackluster election season in Summit County.
The presidential race, of course, will drive voters to the polls — or their mailboxes — in November, and the four Statehouse contests are certainly deserving of residents’ full attention. But barring a write-in campaign, there will be no contested races this fall for the three Summit County Council seats on the ballot, or the three County Courthouse department head positions.
That’s because the Summit County Republican Party failed to field a single candidate for any of those seats.
For the second straight election cycle, not a single Republican is running for elected office at the county level. It’s a disappointing reality that, in part, represents a failure on behalf of the leadership of the local party, as recruiting viable candidates — or any candidate — is one of the most essential functions of the party apparatus, even when political demographics make the path to electoral success challenging.
Summit County voters — Republican, Democratic or otherwise — deserved better.
After all, the lack of contested races does not just mean that the Summit County Council will continue to exist under one-party rule (a characteristic that roils many residents as it applies to the GOP-heavy Utah Legislature). It also robs voters of a robust debate about the governance of the county and ideas about how to improve it, a biennial rite that is healthy for a community and vital for its democratic institutions.
Rather than getting to press candidates on important issues and weigh competing visions for our community, residents who care about the future of the county will be left voiceless this fall as the Democratic candidates skate to victories without having to persuade a single voter.
Additionally, the absence of GOP candidates is likely to perpetuate a damaging cycle, further disenfranchising Republicans from local politics, something that should frustrate and sadden anyone who values democracy. That’s especially true in the conservative-leaning East Side, where there is already justifiable concern about a lack of representation at the county level.
And the situation could have been even worse.
On Thursday, Democratic candidates for two County Council seats squared off at the party’s virtual county convention, seeking enough delegate support to win the party nomination outright. One candidate, incumbent Roger Armstrong, did so, essentially assuring him another term on the council. But the two challengers for the other contested seat, Canice Harte and Malena Stevens, failed to win enough delegate votes, forcing them into a summer primary.
Though the debate between them lacks the contrasts offered when candidates of opposing parties face one another, residents will have at least some say about who wins one of the six county positions on the ballot.
If one is looking for silver linings, that is better than nothing.
Then again, nothing is a pretty low bar.
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