The Republican Party on Tuesday extended its control of the Utah County Commission as voters elected Provo lawyer Sid Sandberg to replace outgoing Commissioner Gary Anderson.
According to unofficial results from the county elections office, Sandberg soundly defeated Democratic challenger Glen Hawkins, Benjamin, 51,093 votes (63 percent) to 29,958 votes (37 percent).Sandberg's election to the two-year commission seat could formally spell the end of a gentlemen's agreement between the two political parties that is supposed to geographically balance representation on the commission.
Sandberg will join Commissioner Malcolm Beck, who will be up for election in two years, and Brent Morris, who eased unopposed Tuesday into his second commission term.
County Auditor J. Bruce Peacock and Treasurer Leonard Ellis - appointed last fall to fill unexpired terms - also ran unopposed. Both are Republicans.
County Clerk Bill Huish said approximately 83 percent of county voters cast ballots during Tuesday's election. That percentage, representing one of the highest voter turnouts in the county's history, could drop a couple points once absentee ballots are tallied.
Utah County voters rallied behind Gov. Norm Bangerter's effort to win a second term. While 50.2 percent of voters supported Bangerter, only 29.6 percent voted for Democrat Ted Wilson. Independent Merrill Cook garnered 19.8 percent of the vote.
GOP County Chairman Steve Shallenberger said the strength of Sandberg's showing may signal the end of the county gentlemen's agreement. According to the agreement, Anderson's seat should have been filled by a candidate from the south part of the county.
In light of the county's population shift the past couple decades to Provo and Orem, Shallenberger said, the agreement has become antiquated.
"These are commissioners who represent all the county's people," he said. Shallenberger said commissioners should be selected because of their qualification and ability to represent all county residents, not because they live in a particular area.
"I'm not sad to see the agreement end. Much more important is the person we elect."
Hawkins, however, said he felt he was the only candidate who offered the checks and balances the commission needs. Not only does election of another Republican perpetuate a one-party system, but it signals the first time the south part of the county is without geographical representation on the commission.
Judging from election results, however, "I think what the voters of the county are saying is that they want qualified people serving as county commissioners regardless of where they live," Sandberg said.
Sandberg pledged to see that tax dollars are spent responsibly and to pursue increased economic development. In addition, he said he will work to acquaint himself better with local issues by holding community meetings throughout the county, beginning Dec. 1 in Spanish Fork.
The commissioner-elect said he looks forward to working with fellow commissioners Morris and Beck.
"I think we can make a good team. I think we'll be able to work together despite differing backgrounds, experience and viewpoints."
County elections officials, with the help of a new automated system for tallying ballots, finished about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
"I'm glad we're on computer, because it would have been a lot later with the kind of turnout we had," Huish said. "It's really proven itself."
Officials had a small problem when one of two computer ballot readers went down about 11 p.m. Other than that, "everything worked just perfectly," Huish said.