The possibility that Utah County Republicans may be left next week with only one GOP candidate running for the two-year commission seat has party leaders scratching their heads about their next move.
Two-term incumbent Gary Anderson dropped out of the race Friday, and GOP challenger Rex L. Behling from Spring Lake said Friday that he too is seriously considering dropping out and will make his decision by Monday. He said the news of Anderson dropping out, however, may persuade him to stay in the race.Attorney Sid Sandberg, Provo, would be the only Republican remaining in the race if Behling also pulls out. Gene Faux, Springville, and Glen Hawkins, Benjamin, are the Democratic challengers.
"We're going to have to just take a fresh look at things and see," said county GOP Chairman Steve Shallenberger. "Rex may not pull out, he may stay in."
Shallenberger, disappointed that Anderson has withdrawn from the race, said he will try to convince him to reconsider. He said party officials will wait to see whether Behling officially withdraws before considering alternatives such as launching a write-in campaign for additional GOP contenders.
If Behling joins Anderson in dropping out of the race, the GOP would have no candidate from the south part of the county running for the commission. A gentlemen's agreement between the political parties stipulates that the two-year seat up for grabs this fall be filled by a candidate from south Utah County.
Sandberg said the agreement has been ignored in the past and that, despite his Provo residence, he is seeking the seat.
"That kind of bothers me that a candidate doesn't feel it (the agreement) should be honored," Behling said. He said south Utah County needs to be represented on the commission.
Anderson, who will finish his second term this December, said he had considered not seeking re-election, but decided to file anyway. But because of lack of time with his family and the flak he has taken over the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center scandal, he decided to withdraw.
"It's no fun being a politician these days," Anderson said. "It's been a fun job and it's been a challenging job, but boy do I hate the politics. When you're a politician, you're fair game for everybody."
Anderson said he hopes his withdrawal from the race will help take some of the politics out of solving Timp Mental Health problems. As chairman of the Timp Mental Health Board, Anderson and fellow commissioners from Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties have been under fire since allegations surfaced last month that the center's top administrators had misused more than $3.5 million in public funds during the past four years.
Anderson's vote last week, along with Wasatch County commissioners Larry Duke and Loren Allred, to offer a contract to one administrator accused of mismanaging funds also has drawn criticism. Gov. Norm Bangerter decried the move.
"I believe that my withdrawal may eliminate some of the political posturing taking place at the expense of the center. This is no time for politics," Anderson said. "The right thing must be done."
He said his withdrawal from the commission race will enable him to make decisions free from "political taint and eliminate any speculation" that his decisions are politically motivated.