LAYTON — A handful of Davis County Republican incumbents may be feeling a little crowded on the ballot following Thursday’s candidate filing deadline.
Republican House Reps. Stephen G. Handy, of Layton, Curt Oda, of Clearfield, Roger Barrus, of Centerville, and Becky Edwards, of Bountiful, all face a single intraparty challenge.
Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, and Davis County Commissioner John Petroff Jr. are each facing two GOP challengers.
The Davis County Republican Party Convention will be at 7 p.m. April 13 at Woods Cross High School. The June primary is set for June 26.
“I don’t think it is one specific issue,” Davis County Republican Party chairwoman Kris Kimball said of the intraparty challenges.
“I think you’re always surprised when someone runs against you,” Kimball said, adding that may cause incumbents to ask, “What did I do wrong?”
But, “that’s politics,” Kimball says.
Factors for this year’s onslaught of candidates may be a result of the overall interest and excitement for the 2012 election, the transition created through redistricting and the $100,000-plus annual salary county commissioners are paid, she said.
“There has got to be something (the challengers) are seeing that they are not happy with.”
Ray, facing intraparty challenges in the House District 13 race from Lorenzo Swank, of Sunset, and Mark Sessions, of Syracuse, said he has had an intraparty challenger all but one time.
Being a visible lawmaker and taking on some of the higher profile issues, like the control of the sale of spice, Ray said, can make him a political target.
“I take on some pretty high-profile issues, and I don’t back down on those,” said Ray, who is seeking a sixth term in office.
He said he doesn’t know who Swank is but was a little surprised to find he is being challenged by Sessions, someone he considers a friend.
“I love getting out and talking to people,” said Ray, who is not offended by the challenge and is looking forward to campaigning.
“I really think that is what makes the system healthy. For me, I just expect it.”
Sessions said he is Ray’s friend but is challenging him politically based on him being an absent legislator.
“Where was he?” Sessions asked of Ray, who he contends missed 105 of the 651 votes taken during the 2012 legislative session.
Sessions, a 58-year-old retired law enforcement officer, said he is also frustrated that Ray was unable to meet with him during the session, despite him trying to set up three appointments with Ray.
“I need to be heard by my legislator.”
Ray said he tried to make his schedule work to meet with Sessions before the legislative session began, “but it never was a set appointment.”
“If I make an appointment, I’m there,” Ray said.
Regarding the missed votes, Ray said, he did miss votes when he missed the session for two days because he had to take an emergency trip for his full-time employer.
There were also votes he missed as a result of having to work out agreements on some substantial legislation.
“In working out deals, you’re not going to hit every vote,” Ray said.
Swank, who is also challenging Ray, said he has great respect for Ray and his crusade against crime.
But an alarming trend the lawmaker has not focused on is in the areas of stimulating the economy and providing education with the funding it needs in filling any future jobs created, said Swank, a 26-year-old instructor of fine arts and computing at the University of Utah.
“We’re going the wrong way,” Swank said of Utah students’ math scores, which have fallen from 13th to 29th in the nation since 1996.
Swank said, with that trend, even if new business is brought into the state, he fears it would be workers from outside the state who would fill the new jobs, not Utah residents.
Ray is not the only incumbent facing intraparty challenges.
Petroff is facing challengers Terry R. Spencer, of Syracuse, and Mark Jacobs, of Bountiful.
“We have needs in the county I want to bring attention to,” Jacobs said of his desire to seek office.
Being a former teacher at the collegiate level, he thinks the commission can do more for educators and education.
In an earlier article, Spencer indicated he is making a run for the commission to prevent the continued growth of government.
Petroff said he is surprised by Jacobs’ filing for the commission because it violates an unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” that ensures the central, south and north portions of the county are geographically represented on the three-member commission.
Should Jacobs win, two of the three commissioners would live in south Davis County.
Regarding concerns about education, Petroff said the best thing the commission can do for education is to promote the creation of jobs in growing the tax base needed to fund education.
“Some of the best things we can do to support education is to improve the economic development situation in the county.”