Is divisiveness infiltrating the Davis County Republican Party and, if so, is it tied to the tax-protest movement?

Party officials say no, but there appears to be evidence that that may not be the case. During the recent county party convention many incumbents ran into stiff competition, and an effort to put wording into the party platform opposing the proposed tax initiatives failed. Speakers talking favorably about the tax initiatives received strong applause from delegates, and state leaders were on hand, as in the Salt Lake County convention, to plead for party unity.The heckling that drew sparks at the Salt Lake convention was not present at the Davis gathering, but there was a strong undercurrent of support for the tax-protest movement.

The most obvious evidence of a party divided came in the delegate voting, especially for county-level offices. In the County Commission races, Gayle A. Stevenson, a newcomer, managed to grab the party nomination for the 4-year seat with 81 percent of the delegate vote. He goes directly to the November ballot. Incumbent Commissioner Harold J. Tippetts did not fare nearly as well. He could muster only 54 percent of the delegate vote in the two-year race and must face William "Dub" Lawrence in a September runoff.

The surprise here was the support given to Lawrence, a former Democrat who switched parties just this year. Lawrence was one of the last Democrats elected to office in Davis County, serving as sheriff from 1974-1978.

Davis is considered one of the strongest Republican bastions in the state and many feel it is the key to victory in the District 1 congressional race where incumbent Republican James V. Hansen is being challenged by Democrat Gunn McKay. In 1980, Davis County's Republican vote was credited with defeating the then incumbent McKay. Since then, Davis has gone Republican in each congressional vote. Davis is again expected to be the key in 1988 and the call for unity is considered by some a sign that problems exist.

The fact that incumbent Commissioner Glen E. Saunders, who is attempting to switch to the county clerk's office, failed to get past a primary contest with newcomer Margene Isom is considered another sign of division by some observers. Saunders has been the most popular commissioner in recent years. His decision to switch races following the close of formal filings raised a cry of conspiracy by the Democrats and tax-protest groups.

Scrutiny of the timetable involved shows that the resignation of Clerk Michael Allphin was coincidental. Saunders' failure to get the outright party nomination at convention is an indication that a specific group does not agree.

A review of the delegate voting shows that Saunders and Tippetts received virtually identical support, another indication a specific group is working to unseat the status quo.

In District 15, incumbent Henry J. Dickamore was soundly defeated by Don E. Bush. Bush is considered a supporter of the tax initiatives.