ST. GEORGE – To many, 2012 has felt like one of the longest election seasons in recent memory. Perhaps it’s an indicator that citizens have invested in the outcome, perhaps it’s a reflection on some strong divides. But now the polls are closed and, as far as Election 2012 is concerned, there’s nothing we can do about it right now.
In a separate post, St. George News is running a LIVE Ticker report of incoming votes lodged with Utah’s Lt. Governor’s office. As the precincts report in, eager and anxious candidates are either gathering together to share victories and losses, or holding the evening private in the haven of their homes. Our reporters are about town and on the phones checking in with our candidates, and we will post their reports here as received throughout the night.
7:10 p.m. St. George News reporter Mori Kessler is at the Best Western Abbey Inn where Democrats are gathering in celebration no matter the outcome of their underdog races. It is no surprise that his first greeting came from Dorothy Engelman, Chair of the Washington County Democratic Party. “I have high hopes for District 62,” Engelman said, “because there is no incumbent.”
Plans for the future involve getting more Democrats involved in local nonpartisan races, Engelman said, like city council and school board races. She said that Holloway’s race will serve as a “training ground” for Democrats who want to run partisan races down the line, that it will help them build a foundation and “establish a record to stand on.”
Billy Kehl is running for Utah’s House District 71, he said he felt his chances are “as good as any Democrat in Washington County can be.” He said that if he does not win the election, it will give him two years to prepare for the next one. Kehl also extended congratulations to his Republican opponent, Brad Last, should he win, especially for “running a clean campaign.”
Cimarron Chacon, D, is running for Utah House District 75. Asked her chances of winning, she said “pretty good,” and said she bases this on the “unique strategy” she employed to get out a very diverse vote in the county. If she loses this run? “I’ll run again,” she said. “It has been such a wonderful experience,” she said. She has worked in the community and has influenced change already – referring to UDOT taking care of cyclists on SR-18. “I feel like I’ve already won,” she said.
9:26 p.m. State School Board District 15 race is coming in so far with 61 percent of the vote going to Barbara Corry and 38 percent going to Bette Arial. St. George News reporter Mori Kessler reached Arial by telephone; Arial said that she has no desire to run again and will carry on with her life. “I’d like to thank the people that voted for me,” Arial said, “I feel I ran a clean campaign, so I have no regrets.”
In the Washington County School Board races, Barbara Beckstrom took District 1 with 62 percent of the vote. “My strategy was to capitalize on my experience in education and in the public eye,” she said. “…My job now is to get the district to hire high quality teachers and then to support them. The biggest difference to students is having quality teachers.” Opponent Jerry Olson had 37 percent, and said a major part of Beckstrom’s advantage in the race was her name recognition. “…It was hard to compete with her brand,” he said. “We need to have a better long-term vision and raise the standards in our schools. I wanted to provide a fresh perspective.”
Craig Seegmiller carried District 2 with 68 percent of the vote. “I’ve just attempted to be the best board member I could be,” he said. “I’m very grateful and appreciative that people have recognized that we are doing our best. Our goal is every day to get better. Our goal is to improve student achievement every day, through technology and teaching better.” Seegmiller’s opponent, Jill Hunt, who received 31 percent of the vote, said: “I tried to reach as many people as I could. I knocked on hundreds of doors. I think most people didn’t have much concern with the school board and just wanted to stick with the status quo. It’s disappointing. I will continue to try to have a positive impact and remain a watchdog. I think we need that.”
In District 3, candidate Debbie Zockoll came away with 63 percent of the vote. She said she believed she won thanks to her experience as an educator for 30 years. “…I have an eye for what is needed for the students and the schools,” she said, and added, “This is going to be a great new adventure.” Aaron Randall received 36 percent of the vote, and said, “I will continue to be involved. I want to give back. I might try again. I really have no political aspirations. I just want to stay involved and serve.”
9:30 p.m. St. George News reporter Chris Caldwell was at the The Village Bank on East Tabernacle in St. George where the Grand Old Party is gathering to celebrate what they expected would be largely victories.
Willie Billings, Chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, spoke to St. George News reporter Chris Caldwell with some regret and pride combined:
“So far, there’s obviously – on the national level with the presidential race – we’re a little bit discouraged on what happened,” Billings said. “Certainly we all believed that the spirit of the Republican Party and with the state of our economy, that the masses of the country would speak out and that we’d elect Gov. Romney as president.”
But we can’t always get what we want on the national basis, Billing said, and therefore turned his attention to state and county levels.
“My job as the chairman,” Billings said, “and my goal, was to make sure that Washington County maintained its Republican roots and Republican stronghold and not give up any ground to the Democrats, and we have not.”
Billings said that over the coming years, he expects the rest of the states will look to Utah and Washington County as a beacon of hope for what the country should be.
During this election cycle, Billings said he came to understand differences between Republican and Democrat values.
“Republicans ,” he said, “truly believe that people are genuinely good and will generally make the right decisions and do good and help each other. And so we believe that we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take care of our neighbors, our friends, our communities, and help people helping people.”
But Democrats, he said, believe that people are not good and that people will eventually make the bad mistakes and can’t take care of themselves, and they look to government to step in.
“And there’s a big opposite right there,” Billings said. He said that the message he keeps hearing from Democrats on all levels is Democratic Party, Republican Party, we’re basically the same, we believe all the same things. Billings said to an extent we’re all patriots, we all love our country, but clarified that we have very differing views of our citizens, our citizenship and our belief systems, of how we treat each other and how we should be governed.
With only three out of 19 precincts reporting when we first spoke with Jon Stanard, he was reluctant to claim victory, although he held a steady lead over the Democratic hopeful Brent Holloway, competing for Utah’s new House District 62. “I feel pretty good. I feel pretty positive,” Stanard said. “We have done enough work, enough polling, enough talking to people that I feel very confident.”
10:21 p.m. More Democrats arrived at the Best Western Abbey Inn, where St. George News reporter Mori Kessler gathered their thoughts on the current status of the races (at that time, all Democrats trailing).
County Commission Seat C candidate Chris White said this election has been a “tipping point” for Democrats in Washington County. If he loses, he will definitely run again in two years. “I won’t disappear,” he said. “Tomorrow we have something to be excited about.”
Tomorrow is guaranteed, as Dorothy Engleman, Chair of the Washington County Democratic Party, announced that the state party has contributed funding to keep the local office operating for another year.
“It’s been a trip to see the party grow,” said Senate District 29 candidate Terence Moore. He has run for public office four times and said that though this will be his last effort, he will continue to work with and support the party. “People in the county will actually come out and admit to being a Democrat now,” he said. “(This year’s gathering) is the largest we’ve seen.”
Regardless of their results, the Democrats have something to celebrate tonight: The re-election of Barack Obama. “I think it was the exact right thing to do,” House District 74 candidate Lee Ann Riddoch said. “I’m very happy.”
11:00 p.m. The race for House District 62 is over. Republican Jon Stanard has taken the victory over Democrat Brent Holloway.
“It’s been a real growing experience,” Holloway said. “We’ve had great, broad support.” As for his party’s progress this election year, he said, “We have nothing to be ashamed of. (Growth on the county level) is something to be proud of.”
“I appreciate Brent (Holloway),” Stanard said, “and the way he conducted his campaign. … If more people around the country were able to conduct their campaign that way I don’t think we’d have some of the issues we have in politics today.”
11:25 p.m. With 75 percent of the vote for County Commission C going to Alan Gardner, opponent Chris White conceded the race. “…I find myself with no regrets,” he said in a concession speech. “I do not feel as though I have lost. Instead I am humbled by what I have won. I enjoy many supporters, colleagues and new friends…We have seen many successes, established a new voice in our community, and shined a light on issues that were once left in the dark. Our elected officials have heard you and I promise to continue to work to make sure they do not forget what you have said. I congratulate Alan Gardner and look forward to supporting him and helping him to implement what we have introduced in this campaign, a citizen-centered government.”
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