2022 Primary election voter guide: Candidates, issues and how to vote in Southern Utah

Mail-in ballots for the 2016 General Election are shown at the elections ballot center at the Salt Lake County Government Center, in Salt Lake City.
Mail-in ballots for the 2016 General Election are shown at the elections ballot center at the Salt Lake County Government Center, in Salt Lake City.

With the primary election on Tuesday likely shaping southwest Utah's political future for the next two years, here is a guide on key information on how to vote and on the candidates.

An unusually high number of local races will come down to primary elections for 2022, with 13 primary elections across Washington and Iron County, including contests for federal, state and county positions. And while the primary officially takes place on June 28, most voters received their ballots in the mail well in advance.

The Spectrum has assembled this guide to inform voters on key information for these primary elections, including registration deadlines, voting rules and candidate information. Below, you can navigate our past coverage to learn more about these elections. To read more about each race, visit this story online at TheSpectrum.com.

In Washington County, of the four state house elections, three will have a primary and the only senate district in the county will also have a primary. That senate primary is for Senate District 28, which covers a vast geographic area that starts in central Washington County and ends in Juab County.

All the primary races in southwestern Utah are between Republican candidates, with several of these primaries likely to crown the winner of the general election in November since only Republican candidates filed to run in some cases. The races where the primary will decide the final candidate are the primary elections for House District 73 and 74, as well as the primary election for the two open seats on the Iron County Commission.

Important dates and deadlines

Citizens head to the polls to whittle down the candidate list for the November municipal election which will decide city council and mayoral races, Aug. 10, 2021
Citizens head to the polls to whittle down the candidate list for the November municipal election which will decide city council and mayoral races, Aug. 10, 2021

With Utah primarily conducting its elections through mail-in voting, ballots were already sent to registered voters. In order for a mail-in ballot to be counted, it needed to be postmarked by Monday, June 27, one day before election day.

But if a voter doesn't get a mail-in ballot postmarked in time, there are other options to vote. A voter can go to an in-person voting center to cast a ballot on election day or take a ballot and place it in a county drop box. These boxes will accept ballots until 8 p.m. on election day.

To participate this year, voters must be registered as Republicans, since every local primary is for Republican nominations and the Utah Republican Party conducts a closed primary that only allows registered party members to vote.

There are still options to vote in this primary for unregistered or unaffiliated voters, though. The deadline to register with the Republican Party was June 17 and anyone interested can register to vote by visiting the vote.utah.gov website. But you're out of luck when it comes to voting in Republican primaries if you're already affiliated with another political party, since in 2021 lawmakers passed HB 197, which made March 31 the deadline to switch political affiliations before an election.

Unregistered voters also have the option to register at in-person voting centers on election day. These centers are the Dixie Convention Center and the Hurricane Community Center. Both of these locations will also have in-person voting on election day from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Iron County will have three election day vote centers the Iron County Courthouse in Parowan and the other two will be the city offices for Enoch and Cedar City. These in-person vote centers will be open from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. on election day.

New voting districts

Utah just went through a redistricting process that changed the lines and some of the numbers of the legislative districts, including in Washington County.

House District 72, which covers the eastern portion of the county, was formerly district 71 and was represented by Rep. Brad Last, who isn't seeking re-election. House District 71 now is exclusive to Iron County and Rep. Rex Shipp (R-Cedar City) is running against Dallas Joseph Guymon, a Democrat, for the seat.

House District 73 covers the middle section of Washington County and was district 62 before redistricting. Rep. Travis Seegmiller was the representative for this district but recently announced he won't be seeking re-election although his name will appear on the ballot since he withdrew after the ballots were printed. A vote for Seegmiller will not count in this primary.

Live voting results online

Tune in to www.TheSpectrum.com for live coverage of local election results as they came in.

U.S. House District 2 

This race is between the five-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart and Erin Rider, a Salt Lake City-based attorney. Stewart easily beat Rider at the state Republican Convention earlier this year but Rider collected signatures to force Stewart into his first-ever primary election.

The winner of this election will face Nick Mitchell, a Democrat, and some third-party candidates including Jay McFarland of the United Utah Party and Cassie Easley of the Constitution Party.

Read more about this race: 

U.S. Senate GOP primary 

This election also features a long-time incumbent facing a Republican primary for the first time. The incumbent is Sen. Mike Lee who has been able to lock down the Republican nomination at the state convention but the two challengers for this seat, Ally Isom and Becky Edwards, were each able to gather the 28,000 required signatures to appear on the primary ballot. Lee also collected signatures.

Another unique feature about this race is the winner won't face a Democrat in the general election. The Utah Democratic Party decided not to put a candidate in this race and instead opted to back the unaffiliated Evan McMullin, who rose to political prominence in 2016 when he challenged then-Republican nominee Donald Trump for the White House and saw some success with Utah voters. 

There are also some third-party candidates in the general election, Tommy Williams is running for the Independent American Party and James Arthur Hansen is running for the Libertarian Party. 

Read more on this election:

Washington County 

There are five different partisan elections in Washington County, three for the county's four state house districts, one for a county commission seat and one for a multi-county state senate seat. 

Ballots for the 2022 primary election were sent to voters on June 7 and the last day to turn them at drop boxes like the one located outside the Washington County building is June 28 which is election day. June 7, 2022.
Ballots for the 2022 primary election were sent to voters on June 7 and the last day to turn them at drop boxes like the one located outside the Washington County building is June 28 which is election day. June 7, 2022.

County Commission Seat A

This primary election is a rematch from the 2018 primary with Gil Almquist and Allen Davis once again trying to secure the GOP nomination. In 2018, Davis won the county convention election but lost in the primary to Almquist. This election cycle, Almquist was able to win a majority of the delegate vote but not enough to avoid a primary. 

Before his time on the commission, Almquist was on the St. George planning commission for 16 years and was a member of the St. George City Council for eight years. His professional career outside of government revolved around landscaping.  Outside of politics, Davis works for the Energy Services Department with the City of St. George. 

One main difference between the candidates is that Davis wants to expand the Washington County Commission to five full-time commissioners, saying this would create more representation for county residents on the commission. Almquist opposes expansion, saying the current makeup of the commission is well equipped to handle the county's problems and that he is opposed to the increased costs that would come with an expanded commission. 

The winner of this election will face Robert Ford, a Democrat, in the general election.

Read more on this election:

House District 72  

(New Harmony, Hurricane, Virgin, Springdale, Apple Valley and a sliver of St. George)

This election is to replace Rep. Brad Last, who isn't running for reelection, to represent the eastern portion of Washington County in the statehouse. Both candidates in this race, Willie Billings and Joseph Elison, are self-employed in the finance industry. 

Both candidates tout themselves as traditional conservatives who want to focus on responsible government spending and education policies. 

Billings is the husband of Hurricane Mayor Nanette Billings. He has deep ties to the county Republican Party since he used to be the chairman and has also been the vice-chair for the Utah Republican Party, according to his website.

Billings has co-opted the popular conservative message "America first" and tweaked it for his campaign by going with "Southern Utah first" on his website. This site also lists Billings as being against gay marriage, the Dixie State University name change, transgender athletes competing in sports and abortion unless it's in cases of rape or incest. 

Elison is a candidate that says "socialism and marxism" have infiltrated public institutions and that he wants to fight against any "woke" movements in those institutions, according to his website. Some of Elison's goals are to eliminate the income tax and taxes collected from social security, stopping environmental, social and governance criteria from influencing policy and for Utah to cut ties with the National Education Association — one of America's largest labor unions that represents school teachers and staffers.

The winner of this primary will face Ila Fica, a Democrat, in the general election.

Read more on this election:

House District 73

(Washington and Leeds)

This race has already had its share of drama before the primary. The defacto incumbent for this seat, Rep. Travis Seegmiller, abruptly announced he would resign from the Legislature on July 1 since he is moving out of the district. This announcement came after the ballots were printed for the primary, so Seegmiller's name will appear on the ballot but any vote for him won't be counted, according to the Washington County Clerk.

The other two candidates disagreed on how to find Seegmiller's interim replacement. Colin Jack followed the Washington County Republican Party and filed to fulfill Seegmiller's current term in an interim capacity and was elected to be the replacement at a June 1 Republican meeting, a full month before Seegmiller officially resigned. 

Nina Barnes said the county party should've waited to pick an interim candidate until Seegmiller's resignation became official. 

At the county convention, Jack secured a majority of the delegate vote but Barnes collected signatures to ensure her place on the primary ballot.

Jack is currently the chief operating officer for Dixie Power and has been an influential member of the county Republican party by holding several key positions including district chair and vice-chair for the party.

Barnes is involved in the real estate industry and is currently the vice-chair of the Utah Board of Higher Education. In this role, Barnes voted for the change of Dixie State University to Utah Tech University, a decision that's been loudly criticized by staunch supporters of the Dixie State name. 

Unless something unforeseen happens the winner of this primary election will take control of the seat in the November election since only Republican candidates filed to run. 

Read more on this election:

House District 74

(St. George, Ivins, Shivwits and Santa Clara)

This election is between two newcomers who are seeking to replace Rep. Lowry Snow, who announced he wouldn't seek reelection. The candidates are Neil Walter, the CEO of the real estate company ERA Brokers, and Kristy Pike, the director of the Washington County Children’s Justice Center. 

During the county convention, Walter was able to gain the support of a strong majority of the delegates' votes, while Pike was able to force a primary by collecting signatures. 

Pike labels herself as a "mainstream Republican" who wants to focus on issues around the welfare of first responders and children. Other issues stated by Pike on her website include being against abortion and for the 2nd amendment. 

Walter says on his website he would an independent voice for Washington County since the county only has four of the 75 state house districts. He also has said he would focus on what gets taught in schools, saying he is against progressive ideas, as well as defending liberty. He has said he is against the signature-gathering method for a candidate to appear on a primary ballot. 

Unless something unforeseen happens the winner of this primary election will take control of the seat in the November election since only Republican candidates filed to run in this election. 

Read more on this election: 

Iron County

County Commission 

For Iron County's Commission, two of the three seats are open during this election cycle and both seats will have a primary election.  Both races have the R incumbents defending their seats for another four-year term. 

Unless something unforeseen happens the winner of this primary election will take control of the seat in the November election since only Republican candidates filed to run in this election. So the partisan make-up of the Iron County Commission will also not likely change no matter the result of this election.

Seat A 

This race is between the incumbent Mike Bleak and Destry Griffiths, both of whom have a background in law enforcement. 

At the Iron County Republican Convention, Bleak secured a majority of the delegate vote but not enough to avoid a primary. 

Bleak has been on the county commission and has a background in law enforcement including working for the Cedar City Police Department for 23 years, he retired from that position in 2018 and now splits his time between the county commission and the Enoch Police Department, according to his website

Bleak touts that his six years on the county commission has allowed him to build a relationship with other local, state and federal officials. Bleak also points to his work on economic development, mental health services, heritage preservation and tax disbursement on his website. 

Griffiths, like Bleak, has also worked for the Cedar City Police Department in the past but Griffiths doesn't plan on working outside of the county commission if elected. On his website Griffiths says he would work full-time as a commissioner since Iron County is growing so fast county commissioners need to work full-time to do the job. 

Griffiths has some experience as an elected official by being on the Enoch City Council.

Other issues Griffiths would focus on is improving the county's infrastructure and ways to recharge the Cedar Valley Aquifer. He says he supported the Tea Party movement and is focused on preserving individual liberties, according to his website. 

Read more on this election

Seat B

This election is between Paul Cozzens, the incumbent, and a political newcomer Steve Miller. 

At the Iron County Republican Convention Cozzens secured a majority of the delegate vote but Miller gathered signatures to ensure his place on the primary ballot.

Cozzens has been on the Iron County Commission since 2018 and before that was a city council member on the Cedar City council for two terms. On his website Cozzens says his priorities are improving infrastructure and protecting individual liberties, saying that he will do what he believes is right even if "that means taking a less-diplomatic approach and making enemies when tough decisions need to be made."

Miller is an owner of a insurance agency with the Farm Bureau Financial Services and spends a lot of time fishing and has organized the charity event Fish and Fun which provides an opportunity for disabled people to get a day of fishing. 

The issues Miller wants to focus on are improving Iron County's credit rating, creating different zones of housing in the county that will allow for rural and urban housing and addressing issues around law enforcement like building a new county jail, according to his website

Read more on this election

Senate District 28

This race is between a veteran of southern Utah's political scene, Sen. Evan Vickers and a political newcomer, Patrick Larson, who fashions himself politically like former President Donald Trump, his official headshot features him wearing a tie that is emblazed with Trump's face. 

At the state convention, Vickers had more delegate votes than Larson, getting just over 57.3% of the delegate vote compared to Larson's 42.7%. 

Vickers is the current Senate majority leader in the Utah Legislature and has held several different elected offices. From 1987 to 1999 he was a member of the Cedar City Council and he has been in the legislature since 2009. The first three years in the legislature Vickers served as a state representative before being elected to the state Senate in 2012. 

On Vickers' website, he touts himself as someone who's committed to keeping taxes low, fighting for more authority to be given to the state legislature, getting less land in Utah to be owned by the federal government and changing laws around healthcare. 

Outside of politics Vickers runs several pharmacies in southern Utah and is involved in some building companies, according to the conflict of interest report he filed with the state. 

Larson is running since he wants a change in Utah's leadership. His website cites the regulations imposed during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic "tyrannical," according to his website

He has several policy promises on his website, including repealing SB 54 which allows candidates to gather signatures to get on a primary ballot, stopping encouragement of party switching and recalling anyone that is a RINO (Republican in name only). 

Read more on this election. 

School Districts races

The races for local school districts in both Washington and Iron County have a few primary elections since more than two candidates filed to run.

These school board elections are non-partisan meaning that candidates don't share connections with any political party on the primary ballot. 

Washington County School District

Washington County District 5

There are three candidates in this race, Willard "Jake" Peart, Edyth Lang and David Stirland. 

Peart is still on the primary ballot despite being arrested in April of 2021 for his involvement in the January 6th insurrection that happened at the U.S. Capitol. He pleaded guilty in January this year to entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct in the Capitol Building and surrounding area. Peart was sentenced by a federal court to 60 days of home detention and three years of probation, meaning if elected he would be a member of the school board while on probation. 

Peart works as a real estate agent for ERA Brokers. He's been endorsed by the right-wing group the Liberty Action Coalition and in statements of support on social media they say Peart is for school vouchers, more teachers but less school buildings, cars, administrators and sports facilities.

Lang is a 2nd and 3rd-grade teacher working at Springdale Elementary, according to the school's faculty list

Stirland is the incumbent in this race and is seeking his third term on the board after winning elections in 2014 and 2018. 

Washington County District 6 

Like the other school district race in Washington County, there are three candidates in this race — Susan Gilman-Hasenwinkel, Kelly Blake and Burke Staheli. 

Gilman-Hasenwinkel is a former teacher with 40 years of experience and recently worked for 17 years as an English teacher at Hurricane High School and left that job in 2021, according to her Facebook profile

Blake is the incumbent for this seat and currently serves as the president of the school board. He has served on the school board for a long time since he was the incumbent in the 2014 election and was unopposed in the 2018 general election. 

Staheli is currently the principal at Riverside Elementary in Washington City. On his Facebook page, Staheli says one of his main goals if elected to the board is to promote American patriotism in schools. 

Iron County School District

Iron County District 4

In Iron County, there will be a primary for district 4 between the incumbent Dale Brinkerhoff and two challengers, Mary Foremaster and Stephanie Hill. 

Brinkerhoff is the current vice president of the school board. 

Foremaster has a background in banking and is a student working towards a master's degree in Public Administration at Southern Utah University. She says having two daughters in school inspired her to run for the school board and she describes herself as "strong supporter" for teachers, according to her website

Hill is a former English and Spanish teacher. On her website, Hill says she wants to focus on literacy for every student, improving parental access to the curriculum and preparing students for secondary education.

Iron County District 5 

There are three candidates for this seat, Tiffany Christiansen, Billy Davis and Steve Merrill. 

Christiansen is currently the vice president of marketing for the Leavitt Group, an insurance agency. Christiansen says she has volunteered in many different ways in the community and wants to be on the school board to continue her service, according to Christiansen's website. If elected she says her priorities would be educating the whole student both academically and emotionally, managing the growth of the district and creating clear lines of communication. 

Davis is a realtor for ERA Brokers and recently has spent time as a substitute teacher in the school district, according to his website. Davis says if he were elected he would focus on being a steward of the tax dollars, focusing on protecting parental rights in education and using "southern Utah values and ethics" to find solutions. 

Merrill is a software development manager and says he would prioritize the need of students if elected to the school board, according to his website. But Merrill also wants to protect teachers and give them the right tools to educate students. He also emphasizes teaching the whole child around physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow on Twitter @seanhemmers34. Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: thespectrum.com/subscribe

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: 2022 Republican primary election voter guide for southwest Utah