ST. GEORGE – Michele Randall won a resounding victory in the race for two St. George city council seats last night; however, the election results revealed strong support for all four candidates, with less than 1.5-percent of the vote separating the second-place winner, Joe Bowcutt, from contenders Tara Dunn and Ed Baca.
Randall won a firm victory, however. The preliminary results of the election indicate that Randall garnered 7624 votes – 31.8-percent of the total vote count – in the four-way race for city council.
Just after the preliminary results of the polling were released, Randall said that she was happy and humbled by the number of votes she received, and that she was glad that the campaign is over.
“I’m exhausted to be perfectly honest,” Randall said. “I’m ready to enjoy the holidays and family, and that’s my plan. I’m going to rejuvenate and then get to work starting in January.”
Randall said she was appreciative of all of the help from people who helped supported her campaign with emails, texts, and even their time and money. She also thanked Dunn and Baca for running for office.
“It is a lot of hard work, both physically and emotionally, running for office,” she said. “And my hat’s off to them for choosing to run.”
Bowcutt was getting ready to pin thank you notes on the yard-signs of his supporters when the results were announced, but first he wanted to be sure he actually won. With such a narrow margin between himself and Dunn, Bowcutt said that he didn’t want to celebrate too loudly until he was certain all the precincts had been counted.
“I’d like to thank all of the great people who made it out to vote for me,” Bowcutt said. “I’m ready to take the reins.”
Bowcutt then revealed something that he had tried hard to keep private during the campaign. “I broke my back, in September, putting up one of those 4-by-8 signs.” He didn’t say anything before, he said, because he didn’t want people voting for him out of sympathy.
In fact, Bowcutt said he was reluctant to bring it up even now, but he said that he wanted to be sure that the people who volunteered and helped in his campaign understood that he couldn’t have won without their help.
“I can’t thank them enough,” Bowcutt said. “There were things I just couldn’t do; not at all, if they hadn’t stepped forward.”
Candidate Tara Dunn said that, even though she didn’t quite make it, she knows that her campaign accomplished a lot.“I feel we had an impact on moving the bar for St. George,” she said.
“I think we are starting to see the community slowly begin to accept diversity. That someone from Ohio that is not LDS could have come this close to winning a seat here — I think it says a lot about how our community is changing.”
Although she didn’t win, the success of Dunn’s campaign surprised many people. Dunn, who is neither a Utah native, nor a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said some people claimed that she wasn’t “Dixie enough” to win an election in St. George. Dunn’s campaign embraced the fact that she was unlike most other municipal elected officials with her slogan, “Definitely NOT a Good Ol’ Boy.”
“Tara Dunn did remarkably well,” Bryan Hyde said. Hyde, the co-host of the local radio talk show Perspectives with Bryan and Kate, said that the fact that Dunn came within a hair’s breath of winning shows that the political landscape of Southern Utah is shifting beneath our feet.
“I think her showing this year is the strongest evidence yet that growth is causing tectonic shifts in the electorate,” Hyde said. “If she runs again, I bet she gets elected.”
Ed Baca has been a fixture in local politics for the last 10 years. Baca regularly attends and participates in city council meetings, and has ran for several council seats in the past. In 2009, Baca nearly won the St. George mayoral election, winning 48-percent of the vote in a race against Mayor Dan McArthur.
Baca practically tied Dunn for third place trailing her by only eight votes, according the preliminary results. Baca was not available for comment last night or this morning.
All of the candidates congratulated Councilman Jon Pike on his victory in the mayor’s race, and they all thanked out-going mayor McArthur.
“He has been a great leader and St. George’s greatest cheerleader,” Randall wrote in a statement. “He truly epitomizes the Dixie Spirit.”
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