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Esli Morales, left, and Teresa Harris gather ballots from a drop box on Monday in Logan.

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With ballots on their way and Logan’s general election in two weeks, issues surrounding district voting and endorsements have been discussed and debated in both the council and mayoral races.

“Having geographic boundaries would ensure representation is more broad,” said challenger to the Municipal Council Keegan Garrity, an issue he ran for council on in 2019.

Although district-based voting has been one of his main points throughout this election as well, he was not the first person to bring it up. Former Logan councilman and current Cache County Clerk Jess Bradfield proposed a switch from at-large to district-based voting. Prior to 2008, the council was a “declared seats” system, meaning challengers had to declare which of the incumbent seats up for reelection they wanted to run for.

Former Council Member Jay Monson originally proposed in 2008 for three district-based seats and two at-large. His hope was that it would allow options for citizens who could not afford a citywide campaign and would help balance the geographic distribution of council members.

In 2019 a committee was formed to explore the pros and cons of moving to a district-based system. Garrity was a part of that committee.

“Five of the six of the committee members recommended we should do a district based system,” Garrity said during the KVNU candidate forum on Oct. 6. “Part of that system was based on the fact that in the last 13 years all but two council members have been elected from the same two neighborhoods. We thought every neighborhood needs a voice, not just in a neighborhood council, but on the council itself. “

Ernesto Lopez, a current council member up for election this year, said that the report the committee produced was missing information that would help the council.

“I want to point out that me being an outsider and new to the conversation, I was surprised that the report did not include data from cities that have made that transition from at-large systems to district,” he said. “In my opinion, it felt like it was more of a case study of Logan.”

Lopez, who has focused on increasing civic engagement as a part of his campaign, said that he is more concerned with increasing voter turnout and that the report stated there was “no guarantee” that moving to a district or hybrid system would increase the number of candidates or participation from the voters.

“I personally feel like we need more information before we move in either direction just to make sure it makes sense,” Lopez said.

Amy Anderson, the other current council member up for reelection, echoed Lopez’s thoughts. She appointed the committee that Garrity was a part of.

“Ultimately, I think, as a community, we need to identify whether people prefer to vote for all five of the representatives in a town of 50,000 who make the decisions for them, or to be able to vote for one of those individuals who are making those decisions for them,” she said. “It’s almost like, do you want the Senate, or do you want the House of Representatives? That’s how I’m viewing it right now.”

Garrity has stood firm on his support for district-based voting. He said that many people had told him, “if you just stop talking about the district issue, I think that will help your cause.”

“The point is to improve things,” Garrity said. “I believe deep down in my heart that a representative is supposed to represent people, not serve their own self interests.”

Garrity also stated that the committee did view other cities in Utah, such as Provo and Ogden, that currently use district-based voting for their municipal councils. Additionally the committee viewed a study that examined nearly 15,000 other cities across the county and the impacts that district-based voting had on it.

All three candidates have expressed an interest in a combination of at-large and district-based, or a hybrid system. Anderson and Lopez both said they needed more information before making a decision, however.

The issue has crossed into the mayoral race as well. Mayor Holly Daines has stated she would prefer to keep the at-large system, while challenger Dee Jones expressed interest in switching to district-based.

“One thing that I really like about our at-large seats, I think it takes some of the drama out of it and it becomes more issue-based because you’re not running head-to-head against an individual, you’re just running for a seat,” Daines said. “I think it’s getting more and more challenging. I think by further limiting by districts, you’re limiting your choices. Is that right, that someone has a secure seat because they’re the only one (running)?”

Jones said that he thinks district-based voting is fairer and provides more diverse representation on the council.

“I want to move toward district-based because all you have to do is add one more person to the council,” he said. “So I think it should be equal. Either that, or we continue the way we’re going, but we still have a representative from each neighborhood council at those meetings.”

Another point of contention in the race has been the topic of endorsement — when is it appropriate and should candidates from separate races endorse each other?

The conversation arose after Mayor Daines endorsed Anderson and Lopez online and called out “Amy and Ernesto’s opponent” — Keegan Garrity — for being critical of her policies.

While such endorsements from sitting officials have historically been rare in Logan’s elections, Daines said she saw it as a way to preserve her effectiveness as mayor.

“Why would I not support people who share my vision and goals for the city?” Daines said. “If I want to move my agenda along for a second term, if I’m given that opportunity by the voters, why would I not support people that I’ve worked with?”

Garrity claimed that the “level of open endorsement by existing council and mayor” was not present when he ran for a seat in 2019. He said he did not believe council and mayoral candidates should endorse each other.

“I’m thinking like, if I’m a council member and I get an endorsement from the mayor … I’m thinking, ‘I don’t really agree with this,’ but do I think is my endorsement on the line if I don’t agree?” Garrity said.

While he agreed that he had been critical of some of Mayor Daines’ policies, he also said he liked some of them as well, including the trails, the Bridger Sports Complex and the Counselor Conversation Area.

“There’s a lot of things I think she’s done well as a mayor. There are things I think she hasn’t done well. That’s true of anyone in my circle. There’s lots of things I love about my wife — that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things we talk about. It’s like, ‘I don’t like the way you chew your carrots.’ Okay, that doesn’t mean I don’t like you as a person. So that’s the unfortunate thing,” he said.

Anderson or Lopez, the endorsees, said they did not find the mayor’s statement polarizing.

“Everyone has a right to endorse whoever you want,” Anderson said. “We all can work with whomever, but if you have someone you respect and work well with, I don’t think there’s a problem with having an endorsement.”

Lopez had similar thoughts.

“I find it interesting that some people are questioning the whole endorsement thing,” he said. “I think they are blowing it out of proportion.”

Lopez, Anderson and Daines said it was hypocritical of Garrity to denounce the endorsement when he, himself, was endorsed by County Executive David Zook.

“Wouldn’t David Zook be an even bigger deal?” Lopez said.

Anderson asked, “Is it appropriate for someone in a different council to endorse a city council candidate?”

Mayor Daines further defended her endorsement by stating that Garrity had received endorsements from other public officials. In addition to Zook, Utah Rep. Dan Johnson, R-Logan, and the former first female mayor of Logan Darla Clark have also publicly supported Garrity.

Jones said he believed it was “unethical” for the council and mayor to endorse each other in a nonpartisan election, but explained that he didn’t see an issue with different councils.

“I won’t endorse anyone as mayor,” he said. “You put yourself in a bad position with the people you work with and the public.”

Jones attempted to donate to Garrity’s campaign earlier in the year, but the money was returned after Garrity said he didn’t think “the mayor and council races should be in cahoots with each other.”

In response, Daines said it is “easy to criticize” if you’re not the incumbent.

“Four years ago when I ran, I was not the incumbent,” she said. “There were no incumbents. I don’t know if that made a difference … It’s easy to criticize and if you’re not an incumbent, you can criticize or say ‘this is what I would do.’”

The general election is Nov. 2. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1 if being delivered by mail. Ballots can also be dropped off inside or outside Logan City Hall.

Please be aware that Cache Valley Publishing does not endorse, and is not responsible for alleged employment offers in the comments.

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