Iron County GOP candidates taking interest in sheriff, other ’18 races

Stock image | Cedar City News / St. George News

CEDAR CITY — A little over one month into the new year, several candidates have already indicated they plan to run for Iron County offices in the November 2018 election.

One notable incumbent who is not seeking re-election is Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower, who recently announced his decision not to run again.

Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower during police K-9 demonstration, Iron County, Utah, Sept. 18, 2016 | File photo, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I believe it is time to turn the office of Iron County Sheriff over to someone with fresh eyes, a new touch and an innovative direction to take this incredible Iron County Sheriff’s Office to new heights and horizons,” Gower said in a written statement posted on the department’s Facebook page.

Gower, who has worked for the Iron County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years, including the past 15 years as elected sheriff, said it has been “a privilege and honor” to serve the citizens of Iron County.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made, but I feel at this time it is the right decision for me and my family,” Gower added.

Three candidates, all Republicans, have already declared their intent to run for Gower’s seat. They include two employees of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, namely Lt. Del Schlosser and Deputy Caleb Anderson. Also declaring his intent to run for sheriff is Parowan Police Chief Kenneth Carpenter. A fourth candidate, Clinton J. Kelly, initially declared his interest in the race but has since withdrawn himself from consideration and said he would endorse Carpenter. 

In Iron County’s countywide races, Republican candidates must either gather 476 signatures to have their names appear on the primary ballot or otherwise secure their party’s nomination at its designated caucus or convention. Some may opt to pursue a “dual path” and take both routes.

The number of signatures required to garner a spot on the June primary ballot varies depending on the office and on the county, as it represents 3 percent of the registered voters of that particular party who live in the county in question. Candidates of other parties would need to obtain a different number of signatures, or simply try to win the support of at least 40 percent of the convention delegates at their party’s caucus or convention.

Both the Republican and Democratic party caucuses are scheduled to be held in counties around the state the evening of March 20. The GOP state convention is April 21 in Salt Lake, while the Democrats will hold their state convention one week later, at the Salt Palace on April 28.

Third-party candidates may also opt to secure a spot on the ballot by convention nomination. Or they may seek to gather signatures instead, as may those who are not affiliated with a political party

Although the official formal filing period for each race isn’t until the week of March 9-15, candidates may declare their intent to gather signatures at any time from Jan. 2 until the March 15 deadline, Iron County Clerk Jonathan Whittaker said.

Candidates for multicounty or statewide races have different signature-gathering requirements. For those running for seats in the Utah State Legislature, the number of needed signatures is a set amount: 1,000 for House of Representatives candidates and 2,000 for Senate candidates.

Besides the office of sheriff, following is a list of other Iron County candidates who have formally declared they plan to collect signatures or plan to qualify as a candidate at their party’s caucus or convention (some plan to do both):

Iron County Commission

Two of the three seats on the commission are up for grabs in 2018. Seat A incumbent Michael Bleak (R) is running for re-election, and is being challenged by Gary B. Holyoak, who recently filed his intent to gather signatures as a Republican. In addition, former Cedar City Council member Fred Rowley, also a Republican, has publicly indicated he also plans to run for Seat A.

For Iron County Commission Seat B, current commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff (R) does not plan to run for re-election, and four GOP candidates have thus far indicated they are interested in taking his place. They are Jennie Hendricks, Michelle Jorgenson, Sam Brower and Paul Cozzens. Hendricks is a real estate broker and agent with Century 21 Prestige Realty, while Jorgenson is a broker and agent with ERA Realty. Brower is a private investigator who unsuccessfully ran against current Iron County Commissioner Alma Adams for Seat C two years ago. All three have formally declared their intent to gather signatures. However, Cozzens, a current member of the Cedar City Council, has indicated he plans to seek his party’s nomination at the GOP county convention March 20.

County Auditor

Incumbent Iron County Auditor Dan Jessen (R) has declared he plans to run for re-election. So far, no other candidates have indicated an interest in that race.

County Clerk

Incumbent Iron County Clerk Jonathan Whittaker (R) is seeking re-election and plans to gather signatures to appear on the ballot. No other candidates have yet indicated they plan to challenge Whittaker.

County Attorney

Incumbent Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett (R), who is seeking re-election, will be challenged by Scott Burns, who previously held the post for 16 years before leaving Utah to take a job with White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under the George W. Bush administration. Burns returned to practice law in the Cedar City area four years ago. Both Garrett and Burns have indicated an intent to gather signatures as Republican candidates.

Utah State Legislature

Incumbent State Senator Evan Vickers, a Republican who represents District 28, covering parts of Beaver, Iron and Washington counties, has formally announced he plans to seek re-election. Vickers has indicated he plans to gather 2,000 signatures and also seek his party’s nomination for his multicounty seat at the GOP state convention.

Utah House incumbent Rep. Brad Last (R) has indicated his intent to gather signatures to keep the seat for District 71, which covers parts of Iron and Washington counties. No other candidates have declared interest in challenging Last in that race.

Rep. John Westwood (R), the incumbent Utah representative in Iron County’s District 72, has said he does not plan to seek re-election. Rex P. Shipp, a Cedar City financial adviser, has declared his intent to gather the 1,000 signatures needed to appear on the Republican ballot. He also reportedly plans to seek the nomination by delegate vote at the party’s convention in March.

Updated Feb. 13: Paragraph changed to reflect that former sheriff candidate Clinton Kelly has withdrawn his name from the race.


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