Only the voters can resolve what one candidate has called "the skunk fight" that has developed in the Republican battle for the two-year seat on the Davis County Commission.

That battle pits incumbent Harold Tippetts, a commissioner since 1982, against former Davis County Sheriff William "Dub" Lawrence.Lawrence has charged Tippetts - and the rest of the commission - with being financially irresponsible and overbuilding the new county jail and court complex. This week Lawrence said Tippetts could influence the vote count in Tuesday's primary election by overseeing the county's computer operation.

Tippetts has responded that Lawrence is dragging the campaign into the mud through personal attacks, turning it into what he has dubbed "a skunk fight."

Davis County is not financially irresponsible, Tippetts said, citing studies showing its government has the lowest per capita cost to operate of any of Utah's 29 counties: $71 per person per year.

And, Tippetts said, the county has had no tax increase during his six-year tenure. Increases in bonding for flood control and the new jail were voter-approved, the commissioner said.

Tippetts opposes the tax limitation initiatives on November's ballot as being too drastic, but said he favors reducing taxes further in the county through department consolidation and other cost-cutting measures.

Lawrence, the Davis County sheriff in 1974-78, has said the commission is spending too much money on the $18.5 million jail and public safety complex and that the county doesn't need a 400-bed jail.

He has also been critical of the commission's purchase of an additional 57 acres of land next to the jail site and last month appeared at a public hearing to oppose a proposal to raise the county attorney's salary and eliminate his private law practice.

Lawrence maintains there is a dissatisfaction among the county's residents over several issues, ranging from the construction of the garbage-burning plant adjacent to Hill Air Force Base to the construction of the new jail.

He has been especially critical of the county's use of $650,000 in hospital bond interest money to buy the fairgrounds site in West Farmington.

Although describing himself as a fiscal conservative, Lawrence has not taken a stand on the tax rollback initiatives, saying he prefers to see the outcome of the November election and will go with the will of the voters.

The challenger has been going door-to-door in the county, talking to residents, and attending various city council and other public meetings, saying he's there "to watch good government at the grassroots level in operation."

And Lawrence has backed dissident county auditor Ruth Kennington in her ongoing battle with the commissioners, saying her efforts to bring good financial procedures and responsibility to the county are being undermined.

As for his jump from being a Democrat when he was sheriff, Lawrence, a Centerville resident, is candid: It's the only way to get elected in Davis County, he said.

Tippetts, a Farmington resident, points proudly to his six years of service on the commission, which he said follows a lifetime of service - all of it as a Republican - in various public sector jobs.

While recognizing that Davis County is rapidly approaching being the state's first fully urbanized county, Tippetts said one of his top priorities is preservation of the county's lifestyle.

That is why he is emphasizing construction of a year-round fairgrounds, horse arena, and recreation center in West Farmington, in addition to designation of bicycle routes and hiking and horse trails in the foothills.

The county should give its residents every resource to develop culturally and through recreation, the commissioner said, while keeping taxes and spending at a low level.

The county's urbanization presents a challenge and opportunity, Tippetts said, challenging the county government to adapt to the change and giving an opportunity to take a long, hard look at the departments and services the county offers with an eye toward consolidation.

Tippetts said the commission has been faced with tough decisions in the past six years, citing the burn plant construction and a new jail, but said he's confident the correct decisions were made.

The burn plant will prove to be a boon by solving the county's waste disposal and landfill problem, Tippetts said, and the public safety complex will "provide us a quality facility that's on target timewise and well within our budget."

And, on the county auditor flap, Tippetts said the commission's actions have been misinterpreted. The commission has repeatedly encouraged and requested the auditor to conduct internal audits of all the county's departments, he said, and is not trying to undermine her work.

As for his opponent's party-hopping, Tippetts said it "raises the question of whether a Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat turned Republican can merit the solid support of the Republican Party."