LAYTON -- A primary race among two Republicans in District 16 illustrates some of the divide being caused by the Tea Party and its brand of conservatism.
Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, is seeking election to the District 16 House seat he has held for two years, since being appointed to replace Rep. Kevin Garn, who resigned at the end of the 2010 Legislative session.
Handy is being challenged within the party by Chris Crowder, who says Handy simply isn't conservative enough. He described his opponent as "a fence-sitting Republican." He has been identified as a Tea Party supporter.
The winner will be decided in a party convention at 7 p.m. Friday at Woods Cross High School. Kris Kimball, chairperson of the Davis County Republican Party, said delegates elected from a recent caucus within the district will vote on which of the two candidates will represent the GOP in November on the ballot.
If neither candidate receives 60 percent of the vote, a primary election will be necessary.
This is Handy's first race for office at the state level, but not his first race. He served on the Layton City Council for eight years. It is Crowder's first bid for office. He maintains the race comes down to philosophy.
"Rep. Handy does not vote conservative and does not vote in line with what I believe are the fiscal and social values of Davis County," Crowder said.
He claims he is mounting a primary challenge to Handy because the incumbent has shown he will give illegal immigrants in-state tuition and he will support tax increases.
Crowder said Handy supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, at the same time Crowder's brother, Dereck Bell, a Marine who fought in Iraq, was denied the same benefit.
Handy suggests the record says otherwise.
"I was pleased to receive an 85 percent conservative rating from conservative think tank The Sutherland Institute after the 2012 legislative session. I would have received a 92 percent rating if I had voted for the abstinence-only sex education bill, which I voted against," Handy said.
Handy said he has a three-fold objective in seeking to return to the Legislature. He said his priorities are a stronger economy, a world-class education system and energy independence.
"I know that it's more important than ever to fight for a strong economy, strong families, world-class education, good and responsive government, low taxes and energy independence," Handy said.
His challenger brings a diverse background to the race.
Crowder is currently music and media pastor at the Christian Life Center and Layton Christian Academy, a school founded by his father, Dr. Myke Crowder.
The young minister has aligned himself with Tea Party principles and says if elected he will stand up to waste in education and what he termed "unethical salaries of many Utah administrators."
Crowder said some Davis School District administrators are making as much as $256,000 per year, and there are pages of school administrators making more than $100,000 per year.
He said he would introduce legislation to highlight what he termed this "abuse of power" and to introduce a scholarship program to allow high school juniors and seniors to take all or part of their required classes at a local university, through the early college program. He claims it would free up millions of dollars in the state education system.
"We need real solutions, and Stephen's solutions seem to be increasing taxes," Crowder said.
Regarding recent legislation to address the federal land issue, Crowder said there may be some legal standing for the federal government to retain state land, but if efforts fail to change that status, the state should force the federal government to increase what it pays to the state for that property
"Rather than $30 million that we now receive, make it $150 million and make those Senators and congressmen on the east coast who want the land, pay for it. Fine, if you want 70 percent of Utah land to be federal land, then pay for it out of your state budgets and maybe we have a deal," Crowder said.
Handy has been outspoken in his support for a move to give Utah control of federal lands in the state, a movement many have dubbed the Sagebrush Rebellion.
"Because we do not control our public lands, the ability to adequately fund public education has been severely hampered throughout our 116 years of statehood. This is a fight worth having as we work in conjunction with our federal delegation. If we need to legislate, litigate and negotiate, we must do it," Handy said.