Grand County voters shook things up on Election Day, sending three moderate- to progressive-leaning county council candidates to office by significant margins.
In the race for an at-large seat on the Grand County Council, Mary Mullen McGann defeated incumbent Jim Nyland by a vote of 1,897 to 1,595, or 54.32 percent to 45.68 percent.
Chris Baird handily won the the District 1 seat that is currently occupied by Grand County Councilwoman Pat Holyoak, with 361 votes, or 55.54 percent, compared to 289 votes, or 44.46 percent, for Kim Call.
Jaylyn Hawks scored the widest per-capita margin of victory among any of the county council candidates, winning the race for the District 3 seat on the council with 519 votes, or 56.66 percent. Challenger Manuel Torres received 397 votes, or 43.34 percent.
Incumbent Grand County Clerk/ Auditor Diana Carroll was hanging on by a much narrower three-vote lead against challenger Zacharia Levine.
As of press time Tuesday night, Carroll had 1,735 votes to 1,732 votes for Levine. By Wednesday morning, the outcome had not been settled: Levine announced that he was still waiting for 50 remaining provisional ballots to be counted.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said in a message on his campaign’s Facebook page.
In the open race for Grand County Treasurer, Chris Kauffman defeated Debbie Littlefield by a vote of 1,811 to 1,595, or 53.17 percent to 46.83 percent.
The remaining down-ballot county races were predictable from the outset.
Numerous incumbents were running unopposed for re-election, including Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald, Sheriff Steve White, Recorder John Cortes, Assessor Debbie Swasey and Grand County Board of Education member Beth Joseph. Britnie Ellis was also running unopposed for an open seat on the education board, after onetime challenger Mary Frothingham withdrew from the race to succeed Bryon Walston. By a 75 percent to 25 percent margin, voters answered “yes” to a yes-or-no question that asked them if they want to retain Grand County Justice Court Judge David Tubbs.
Turnout in this year’s Nov. 4 general election easily surpassed totals from recent mid-term election years, with 3,571 of the county’s 4,816 voters participating.
Carroll linked the higher turnout to the ease with which voters could cast ballots in the county’s first vote-by-mail election. Even before the clerk’s office opened for business on Election Day, turnout had already hit 62.9 percent.
“We have had a steady stream of people in here,” Carroll said Nov. 4. “Since 7 a.m., it’s just been non-stop.”
By the time the election results were finally posted Tuesday night, turnout topped 74 percent, compared to 72 percent during the high-profile 2012 presidential election year.
While turnout was up in Grand County, it was down to a mere 6 percent in Utah County and 9 percent in Salt Lake County as of Tuesday morning, according to Carroll.
Candidates react to campaign, election results
McGann viewed the local outcome as a referendum on Grand County’s future.
“The silent majority has spoken,” she said after press time Nov. 4. “The silent majority wants us to protect the environment, to protect our sovereignty and to show that we care for our children and our environment.”
Her comments about sovereignty were a direct reference to Grand County’s involvement in the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition. Both McGann and Hawks said they would like to revisit the Grand County Council’s Oct. 21 vote to join the controversial entity.
“I think we need to get out of it,” McGann said. “We don’t have anything in common with those counties, and the fossil fuel industry is a dead end.”
Grand County’s neighbors created the coalition with one purpose in mind: to help extractive industries move their products to market. But that task should be left up those businesses, she said.
“If the fossil fuel industry thought it would be profitable to build that infrastructure, they would build it themselves,” she said.
With the results now settled, Hawks said she will ask citizens — particularly the residents of her district — which issues they would like her to pursue.
Hawks said she also hopes to continue the work that county and city officials began years ago to improve the availability of affordable housing in Grand County; she’ll also be paying close attention to issues that affect regional air and water quality.
One thing she won’t be doing, she said, is pursuing her own agenda.
“As far as a preconceived agenda, I do not have one,” Hawks said.
As she prepares for the months ahead, Hawks said she’s grateful for the support she’s received from voters and volunteers alike.
“I have been amazed, overwhelmed and very appreciative of all of the support that people have given me,” she said.
Hawks’ shout out to volunteers and campaign supporters was a common refrain among other candidates.
“Win or lose, I just want to thank them for their time and their effort,” Torres said.
McGann said she feels humbled by the work that volunteers – including people she hardly even knew beforehand – have put into her campaign.
“It made me want to work harder,” McGann said. “If I come out on the other side and I do get elected, I want to rise to the occasion and do the best that I can.”
In a statement she submitted before the results were announced, Call said that one true fact about campaigns and elections is that they eventually come to a close.
“The rhetoric winds down; the issues fade into everyday business; candidates become ordinary. Thankfully,” she said.
“The sun is still shining, thankfully, over the red rocks of our beautiful valley; we are still the same friendly people we were before the election process began,” Call said. “Grand County must now get on with the business of protecting our way of life and creating a legacy for future generations. It’s time to link arms and get to work.”
As Torres campaigned from door to door, he heard voters’ concerns about road closures in the La Sal Mountains, and he voiced his own misgivings about environmentalists’ calls for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. People are passionate about community-wide issues, he said, but many of them also recognize that they need to respect others’ viewpoints.
“I think the only complaint I’ve heard is just about us knocking each other,” he said.
If he could boil that philosophy down into a bumper sticker slogan, it might say something like: “Get involved and be productive — don’t slam each other.”
Looking back at the campaign for the District 3 race, Torres believes that he and Hawks were civil and respectful toward each other.
“I thanked (Hawks) for running, because it’s not an easy thing to do,” Torres said. “I’ve been there before, and I know what it’s like.”
Hawks said the overall campaign was fairly positive.
“We sort of stayed in our corners and minded our own business,” she said.
Torres ultimately encourages others to run for local office, as well, and he believes all citizens should strive to learn more about Grand County’s government and the way it operates.
“I think we need to educate people a little better on the system we have,” he said.
Non-partisan races see influx of partisan money
Campaign contributions are another fact of election season, and this year, Kauffman raised — and spent — more money than any other candidate on the ballot, reporting total contributions of $12,466 and total expenditures of just under $11,271. His top contributors included the Wang Organization, which gave $2,000 to his campaign, followed by Jennifer Speers and Anne Wilson, who gave $1,000 each; Kauffman also loaned his campaign $1,500 of his own money.
In comparison, Littlefield reported $2,880 in total contributions, including $1,000 from Juanita Mayberry, $500 from the Grand County Republican Party and $200 each from outgoing Councilman Gene Ciarus and Dwight and Susi Johnston. Littlefield spent more than $5,166 on her campaign, according to her financial disclosure report.
In the race for the at-large seat on the county council, McGann raised almost four times as much money as Nyland did. Altogether, she reported $8,996 in small and large contributions, compared to $2,300 in reported contributions to Nyland’s campaign.
McGann received $2,000 from Speers, $1,000 from Pete and Ann Lawson and $400 from Bruce and Barbara Browning. Nyland, meanwhile, reported two $500 contributions from the Grand County Republican Party, along with $800 from Preston Paxman and $500 from Colin Fryer.
Baird reported $4,785 in contributions, including $300 from former Grand County Council member Kim Schappert, and another $300 from B.W. Browning. Call, meanwhile, reported $6,588, including $1,400 from the Grand County Republican Party, $1,000 from Preston Paxman and $500 each from Dwight Johnston and Fryer.
Fryer also contributed $300 to Hawks’ campaign. He was topped by Clifford Gorovoy of Monroe, New York, who contributed $333. The only other significant reported contribution to Hawks’ campaign came from Ed Weeks of Moab, who gave $150. Torres’ general election campaign contributions totaled $2,020, including $1,000 from the Grand County Republican Party, along with $500 each from Ray Klepzig and Dick Allen.
Hawks, Baird, McGann take council seats; Incumbent Clerk Diana Carroll ahead by 3 votes
The silent majority has spoken. The silent majority wants us to protect the environment, to protect our sovereignty and to show that we care for our children and our environment.
For a complete list of official preliminary election results, go to: http://electionresults.utah.gov/elections/county/grand.