SYRACUSE -- Party politics have no place in municipal elections if the common good of the community is to be served, says Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle.
"We all have skin in this game," Nagle said of communities at large.
But the leader of the Davis County Republican Party sees it differently, saying the party affiliation of those seeking an elected city office has its place, to the point that he encourages GOP members to seek that information before making their voting decision.
In that scenario, GOP members have likely been busy in Syracuse for several weeks, as there has been plenty of political party finger-pointing in its city council race.
Nagle said challengers making a bid for one of three council openings have been trying to attach the titles of "liberal" and "Democrat" to her, in hopes of bringing down those councilmen seeking re-election who have demonstrated a willingness to work with her the past two years.
Despite their efforts, Nagle, a former Davis County Democratic Party secretary, said she refuses to be defined by a party because it places barriers between people.
"It's going to be all about party, and not about community," if party lines are adhered to, she said. "It stops the discourse."
If she had it her way, Nagle said, the only contest that would run on a party ticket would be the office of U.S. president. Outside of that, she said, party labels get in the way, which is why the majority of people across the nation feel like Washington, D.C., is broken.
"The polarization is destroying America," said the first-term mayor. "Inserting the political party stops the conversation, and leads to tragic consequences for those in the country."
But nonetheless, the political whispers that the city mayor is a liberal continue in Syracuse, where many conservative Republicans reside.
"They assume because I have a letter D by my name, that I'm a flaming liberal," Nagle said.
But if her views must be known, she said, she opposes abortion, and is fiscally more conservative than most Republicans. She said her two-year record as mayor is proof that she has shrunk the size of the city's government and decreased spending.
"I think it is tragic that a letter by someone's name determines whether they will get that person's vote," she said.
Davis County Republican Party Chairman Rusty Cannon says party affiliation should play a role with any elected leader in a position to have a voice on public policy or to legislate taxes.
"I would encourage the people to know the party affiliation of the candidates," Cannon said. "In general, we think party affiliation is vitally important in telling people what the (candidates') guiding principles are."
The position of the county's GOP is that their party principles are important, and those same principles should be important to anyone affiliated with their group, he said.
Cannon said the party doesn't tell members how to vote, but registered Republicans make up the majority of the county's voters.
But municipal candidates making party labeling accusations in their campaign run is contrary to the spirit of Utah's election laws, says a political expert.
In Utah, municipal elections are nonpartisan, in which party politics do not and probably should not play a role, versus in the East, where municipal elections are largely partisan and party politics do and should play a role, said Leah A. Murray, Weber State University associate professor of Political Science and Philosophy.
"The reason why (Utah) divorced party politics from municipal elections was to separate those elected officials from party control," Murray said.
"When candidates run accusing others of being liberal, they are trying to play on party cues that are lacking in municipal elections. But they are indeed going against the spirit of the law, which was to separate party control from municipal elected officials," Murray said.
Municipal candidates who use party politics in their campaign are "campaigning to the lowest denominator," where they search for the one reason not to vote for someone, versus looking at what the person has done for the good of the community, said Rob Miller, State Democratic Party treasurer and former Davis County Democratic Party chairman.