What started as a five-man race for the Utah County Commission has turned into a two-man contest that county Democratic Chairman Bob Stringham says will see many Republicans cast crossover votes.
Central to the campaign for the two-year commission seat this fall is what Stringham calls the GOP's unwillingness to honor a gentlemen's agreement that is supposed to geographically balance representation on the commission.According to the agreement, the two-year seat up for grabs this fall should be filled by a candidate from the south part of the county. While Democrats are saying the GOP should honor the agreement, Republican leaders have responded that having good people in office is more important than always complying with the letter of the agreement.
Sid Sandberg, Provo, is the sole GOP candidate for the two-year seat following withdrawals by incumbent Commissioner Gary Anderson, Springville, and Rex Behling, Spring Lake. And with the withdrawal of fellow Democrat Gene Faux, Glen Hawkins will be his party's lone candidate.
Anderson said he withdrew because of lack of time with his family and the flak he has taken over the Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center scandal. Behling said his candidacy had a bad start and that personal reasons sparked his withdrawal.
Anderson, however, is the only one who so far has turned in his letter of withdrawal from the race to the county elections office.
Springville resident Faux, who earlier this month announced plans to withdraw from the race, said he will turn in his withdrawal letter to the county elections office this week.
Stringham said local Democratic leaders feel balanced representation is essential to the the county's political health.
"We felt we had to follow the gentlemen's agreement," he said. "I don't see the Democratic Party willing to sacrifice its integrity. If Republicans want to do that, that's up to them."
Stringham said the respective parties need quality candidates but should not disregard the gentlemen's agreement to find those candidates.
"I think we need excellent candidates, but we're talking about an agreement," he said. "I'm inviting the Republicans to demonstrate that they do have some integrity. On this issue they have none. They've demonstrated that."
Stringham predicted many GOP voters will support Democratic candidates this fall.
"I think a lot of things will draw Republicans into voting for Democratic candidates, not just the Republicans' lack of integrity," he said. "I think we're going to have a lot of people crossing over to the Democratic Party."
Faux, who said he withdrew to support Hawkins, said Utah County residents are starting to realize the need for a strong, local two-party system. Current commissioners Anderson, Brent Morris and Malcolm Beck are all Republicans.
"I think we have to get back to a two-party system. And I challenge the leadership of the predominant church to lift the stigma that's been placed on the Democratic Party," Faux said. "One party has been given a black eye, and we've suffered because of it."
Not only does the county need a Democrat on the commission, it needs a commissioner from the south part of the county to improve representation, he said.
When Faux filed for the commission seat in April, he said, no other Democrat had filed. He filed against Anderson in 1982 for the same reason; however, he then filed as a Republican.
"When I filed, nobody else but Gary Anderson had filed," he said. "I filed because I didn't want to see him waltzing in without any opposition."