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Dems taking case against Ferry to Utah Supreme Court

Editor’s note: Republican delegates met Tuesday, Sept. 20 in Brigham City to name a replacement to fill the remaining three months in Rep. Joel Ferry’s current term. Results of that special election were not available as of press time.

Utah Democrats plan to make their case to the Utah Supreme Court after a federal judge declined their request to block the printing of ballots ahead of November’s election, which means Republican Joel Ferry is still on the ticket in Utah House District 1.

Despite the setback, the legal fight is not over, Democrats say.

On Friday, Utah Democrats and House District 1 Democratic candidate Joshua Hardy said they’ll take their case to the Utah Supreme Court, seeking to disqualify Ferry because his candidacy violates the Utah Constitution.

“The Republican Party and Ferry are trying to undermine our free and fair elections so that Republican delegates can choose their representative and not the voters,” Hardy said in a text message on Friday.

Hardy says Ferry’s continued presence on the ballot is unfair to him and to Republicans Karson Riser, Ben Ferry and Thomas Peterson. They have filed as write-in GOP candidates for the November election.

“It’s time that we set a precedent in Utah that our state is not ruled by one party, but by our Constitution and the rule of law,” Hardy said.

In June, after Gov. Spencer Cox nominated Ferry to head the Utah Department of Natural Resources in June, Ferry initially refused to resign his seat in the Utah Legislature, which led to accusations that he violated the separation of powers in Utah’s Constitution. An executive branch member cannot simultaneously hold a seat in the Legislature. Ferry eventually resigned his seat in the Utah House nearly two months after his nomination.

Ferry had already secured the Republican nomination for another term in the Utah House when Cox picked him to join his administration. Unfortunately for the GOP, it was too late to replace him on the ballot.

Democrats contend Ferry knows he’s ineligible to serve if he’s elected in November and his refusal to withdraw is nothing more than an attempt to make sure there’s a Republican on the ballot.

Last month, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson refused requests from Democrats to disqualify Ferry from the November election. Democrats went to federal court to stop elections officials from printing ballots while their claims that Ferry was ineligible to serve were adjudicated.

In response to the Democratic lawsuit, Ferry’s lawyers argued there’s a chance that the Utah Senate won’t confirm Ferry. Additionally, they suggest there’s a possibility that Ferry will choose to return to his legislative seat if he wins the election in November.

“Plaintiffs not only do not know whether Ferry will be confirmed, they do not know which job Ferry would choose if elected,” his lawyers argued in a court filing.

The Utah Senate will hold a final vote on his nomination next week. If Ferry wins November’s election and decides to remain as part of Cox’s cabinet, he would have to resign again before ever taking office.

If Ferry were to win the election but chooses to keep the DNR job, it would be up to a handful of Republican delegates to decide who represents the district for the next two years.

During a brief telephone conversation with The Tribune on Friday, Ferry accused Democrats of trying to disenfranchise voters by removing him from the ballot.

“I don’t think what I’m doing violates the constitution. They’re trying to rob the voters of the chance to vote for someone who would represent their values in November,” Ferry said.

Ferry refused to answer whether he would commit to returning to the Legislature if he won the election.

“I’m going to keep all my options available,” he said.

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.

A cow skull mounted on a wooden pole marks the top of Bull Mountain, the highest point in Box Elder County at 9,938 feet above sea level, on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The summit is located in the Raft River Range north of Park Valley. While some choose to hike to it via a trail starting at Clear Creek Campground, a road accessible to high-clearance 4x4 vehicles also passes nearby.

Top o’ the county

Rare chance to go 'behind the gates' at BR bird refuge

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge will celebrate National Public Lands Day with a “Behind the Gates Day” on Saturday, Sept. 24, giving the public access to drive a road through the refuge that is normally closed.

On Saturday, the Auto Tour Route will be in reverse (traveling clockwise) from sunrise to sunset. The D-Line Gate will open at 9 a.m. and the last entry will be at 1 p.m., allowing the public to travel on the the southernmost road in the refuge.

The D-Line begins at the southern end of of the Auto Tour Route and heads east, ending at I-15 in Perry. The road travels through prime migratory bird habitat, giving visitors a chance to see and photograph a wide range of species during the fall migration season.

Admission to the bird refuge is free. The Auto Tour Route is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Wildlife Education Center at the refuge visitor center, 2155 W. Forest St., Brigham City is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

An opportunity to learn, give feedback

Refuge staff invite the public to participate in two upcoming “Listening Sessions” as the refuge prepares for comprehensive conservation planning to guide future management of the Refuge and Bear River Watershed Conservation Area.

The first session will be held Thursday, Sept. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center, 1157 S. Waterfowl Way, Farmington. The second meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, 5-7 p.m. at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge visitor center, 2155 W. Forest St, Brigham City.

Each meeting will be comprised of a short presentation followed by open house-style stations where attendees can learn more and provide comments.

Box Elder unemployment rate up slightly, remains low

After falling below 2% and staying there for most of the past year, the unemployment rate in Box Elder County ticked up slightly last month, but remains near a historic low and well below the national average.

Unemployment in the county came in at an even 2% for August, up from 1.9% in July and 1.8% in June, the Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Monday. Meanwhile, job growth remained strong at 2.6%, with the county adding an estimated 583 jobs over the past year.

Statewide, Utah’s nonfarm payroll employment for August 2022 increased an estimated 3.4% across the past 12 months, with the state’s economy adding a cumulative 54,400 jobs since August 2021. Utah’s current job count stands at 1,673,200.

August’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for Utah is unchanged at 2.0%. Approximately 35,500 Utahns are unemployed. The August national unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percent to 3.7%.

“This month’s economic data continues to hold strong in the face of national dialogue about inflation and other economic hurdles,” said Mark Knold, Chief Economist at the Department of Workforce Services. “Both the national and Utah jobs data are robust and show that hiring remains strong. The national unemployment rate moved up a little, but when said rates are as low as they currently are, small upward movements are not viewed as a concern. Utah’s rate remained unchanged at 2.0%. This is the fourth straight month that Utah’s unemployment rate has been at 2.0%.”

Utah’s August private sector employment recorded a year-over-year expansion of 3.7%, or a 50,800 job increase. Eight of Utah’s ten major private-sector industry groups posted net year-over-year job gains, led by Trade, Transportation, Utilities (12,200 jobs); Education and Health Services (11,500 jobs); Construction (10,700 jobs); and Leisure and Hospitality (10,200 jobs). The two sectors with job contractions include Financial Activities (-2,500 jobs), and Professional and Business Services (-600 jobs).