I’m no longer a registered Republican, so the only races on my 2018 primary ballot are for Alpine School Board and the Utah State School Board. We’ll begin with those, then move on to several Republican primary races

(Please note that we’re firmly in the realm of opinion and commentary here. If you’re looking for information without opinion, this post is not for you.)

I’m penciled in as the moderator of another school board debate before the general election, so I won’t tell you how I plan to vote. Also, I don’t know yet. But I will offer some thoughts on each candidate, based mostly on the debate I moderated on May 9 (audio here). My notes may guide you and me in different directions — not that you’ll ever know — and that’s fine with me.

I recommend that you listen to audio of the May 9 school board debate and visit candidate websites and social media accounts for further information. An earlier post here at afelection.info has links for local and state school board candidates.

Alpine School Board (District 3)

Alpine School Board

This is a nonpartisan race; it appears on all ballots.

I like all three of these candidates. They appeal to me in different ways, but — assuming they were candid at the May 9 debate — they have some key things in common.

They’ve all done a lot of homework, studying the roles and responsibilities of school board members, the day-to-day realities of the job, and/or district policies and procedures.

They’ve all served for years in related, volunteer leadership roles, not just as rank-and-file members of the PTA. This isn’t like a bad city council race, where some of the candidates didn’t know when or where the meetings were held, before they filed for office. (There’s a big difference between serving for years and simply waking up one day and proclaiming, “I want to serve!”)

None of the candidates shows signs of ideological poisoning. (Symptoms may include obsession with philosophical or federal issues, combined with ignorance of the real issues facing the body to which they want to be elected.) And none of them even twitched the needle on my wing nut detector. (We can discuss that algorithm some other time.)

Unlike the 2016 US presidential election, where it seemed impossible to cast a good vote, in this race it may be impossible to cast a bad vote.

Rather than following my ballot, I’ll put the candidates in alphabetical order by surname.

Sarah Beeson

I’ve known Mrs. Beeson for years, and we’ve spent some time talking politics. I’ve also worked with her on projects related to the American Fork High School Marching Band, when she was Booster President.

  • She reads a lot. As of several weeks ago, she was half-finished reading the district’s policy and procedures manual.
  • She’s passionate about arts and humanities in the curriculum. (STEM is the popular acrynom — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Some make it STEAM, adding the Arts. I’m thinking SHTEAM, with H for Humanities, unless we can come up with an R and make HAMSTER.)
  • She’s married to a senior, well-respected school teacher.
  • She says there’s a little too much federal control and a little too much state control over public education (not my favorite answer, but tending my preferred direction).

Dr. ‘Afa Palu

I had never met Dr. Palu before the debate. He seems like a kind, intelligent man.

  • He has a PhD in Educational Leadership.
  • He’s done a lot of research into dropouts, and much work trying to reduce them. (A useful perspective on a school board, I suspect.)
  • He’s passionate about Special Ed programs and teachers. (Another useful perspective.)
  • He wants to find innovative ways to address steady, massive growth, not just building more and more schools. (Please note that he did not say that we should stop building new schools.)
  • He says there’s too much federal control over public education (I agree) and too little state control (I disagree.)

Kara Sherman

Mrs. Sherman has a long resume of service in high-level PTA leadership and worked as a secretary at Forbes Elementary in American Fork.

  • As Utah PTA’s Advocacy Director, she has spent a lot of time with the Utah Legislature, writing and influencing legislation. (This is an excellent thing in a local school board member. As Sun Tzu or Michael Corleone might have said, “Keep your friends close and your state legislature closer.” Or as Sun Tzu actually said, in Chapter 3 of The Art of War, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”)
  • Her work has taken her to every public school in the Alpine School District.
  • She thinks the federal government exerts a little too much control over public education, and the state exerts “way too much” control (my favorite answer among these candidates).
  • She acknowledges the need for some bonding to accommodate massive growth but would work to minimize it.
  • Realistically, she says, eventually the Alpine School District will have to split. (I like the inclination here to contemplate the future with a sensible realism.)
  • She’s a classical pianist and doesn’t need to be persuaded of the importance of the arts and humanities in the curriculum.

Like I said, there’s not a bad vote here.

Utah State School Board (District 9)


Utah State School Board

This is a nonpartisan race. It appears on all ballots.

Again, there isn’t a bad vote here, as far as I can tell. These are intelligent, accomplished women. Listening to them discuss issues, even in one-minute debate answers, both taught me and impressed me. Here are two examples from the debate audio, which are well worth hearing. Maybe they’ll help you choose between candidates, but my point is the quality of the discussion.

Here they discuss Common Core. The order of speaking here is Davis – Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln.

Here they discuss moving control from the state level to the local level. These order of speaking here is Muhlestein – Alvarez – Lincoln – Davis. (More debate audio is here.)

Again, my notes — my likes, you might say — are in alphabetical order by candidate surname.

Kami Alvarez

  • I like the breadth of her experience in this sense: It includes very large districts, like the Alpine School District, and very small, sparse districts, such as San Juan. (This is important on a state school board.)
  • She has administrative experience at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels. (Another important dimension for breadth.)

Cindy Davis

Mrs. Davis was principal at Shelley Elementary in American Fork and is well-regarded among parents who knew her there, as far as I have heard.

  • She’s passionate about public education (as a state school board member should be).
  • Her teaching background is in English and reading (a valuable perspective in a STEM-obsessed climate).
  • She’s on the adjunct Education faculty at Utah Valley University.
  • She has district-level administrative experience over special education.
  • She’s been involved with the legislative process for years at the state level. (This is much bigger at the state school board level than the local level; see what I wrote about Sun Tzu above.)

Joylin Lincoln

Mrs. Lincoln ran for state school board four years ago. I didn’t vote for her, but I liked her, and I kinda wished I had two votes.

  • She attended state school board meetings faithfully for four of the last six years, and watched them online for the last two years, while she went back to the classroom as a science teacher. (The latter approach, she said, has the advantage that you can throw a shoe if you get frustrated. Either way, her dedication is impressive.)
  • Her experience includes charter schools, and she leads with the thought that one-size-fits-all does not serve students well.
  • I like how relentlessly she connects policy questions to actual students and teachers in the classroom.
  • The shoe-throwing thing (see above) is more amusing because she’s quite soft-spoken. But my impression is that her quiet demeanor masks considerable strength.

(A note from our sponsors, so to speak: When she ran four years ago, I invited Joylin to be a guest blogger at FreedomHabit.com. I mention her essay, “Why I Started This,” more as cross-promotion and atmosphere than as candidate promotion. If the other candidates have a good blog post to which they’d like me to link here, I’m open to that. As it stands, it’s a good view inside the head and heart of a good candidate — and I’m sure the other three good candidates could write fine pieces on the same topic.)

Avalie Muhlestein

  • I like the breadth of her experience, including schools in Oregon, Minnesota, Hawaii, Washington, and Utah.
  • I’m impressed that her preparation for the campaign included speaking with law professors, not just current and former board members (also good), about the role of the state school board.
  • Her master’s thesis was on standardized testing and education reform. I like such depth of study on any related topic, but this seems especially apt.

I still don’t know how I’m voting in this race. Maybe we could send all four? They’d be an impressive team.

United States Senate

US Senate

This is a Republican primary race. It appears only on registered Republicans’ ballots.

A recent poll has Governor Romney about 47 percentage points ahead in this race, and I think that’s good for Utah and the country

Fair warning: supporters of either candidate here may wish that I would explain the following views, but time is short, reader patience is finite, and it’s not going to be close, so I’ll give it to you straight, without expatiating.

Dr. Kennedy has state legislative experience — I’ve heard him take credit for Utah’s excellent economy — but he sounds to me like a rookie, middle-of-the-pack city council candidate, armed with a few high principles, a selection of semi-snarky soundbites, and a fairly shallow understanding of issues and political processes. He’s a right-wing candidate (even by Utah Republican standards) trying to sound like a mainstream conservative.

Meanwhile, Governor Romney is (on a national spectrum) a mostly-conservative and partly-centrist candidate trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters in a very conservative state. He has a deeper understanding of policy and political processes — he’s a former Republican nominee for President, for heaven’s sake — and he’ll arrive in Washington with some serious clout. He’s campaigned for about 40 senators, and that’s big.

We can use Romney’s clout and his experience getting political things done in a hostile environment. Also, he’s old enough that he’s not likely to serve more than two or three terms, whereas, if Dr. Kennedy won and could prove at least minimally credible, he could be there for decades (which would be a bad thing, in my book).

I recommend that you spend an hour watching this debate, and see if you think differently.

Governor Romney is poised, clear, and on point. Dr. Kennedy keeps repeating, “I stand with this president,” and keeps trying to paint Romney as a flip-flopper, which is hardly a new strategy. But Kennedy hasn’t done his homework; Romney decimates him with the details behind the sound bites.

I don’t know to what degree anyone in Washington can solve the problem Romney described as “broad agreement but no movement” on key issues in Congress, but if anyone can get things moving, he can. In that respect — as in the recent poll — Kennedy doesn’t have a prayer.

US House of Representatives, Utah District 3

House of Representatives, Utah District 3

This is a Republican primary race. It appears only on registered Republicans’ ballots.

This is a rerun of last year’s midterm race to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The contrast between John Curtis, the workhorse, and his show-horse predecessor couldn’t be starker, and I’m delighted with his work. He’s intelligent, serious about getting things done, and unbeatable in the arena of connecting with constituents. I have personally observed his inclination to learn from constituents about specific issues.

Chris Herrod has three problems. He’s a weak candidate. His temperament is ill-suited to politics. And he’s sufficiently far right that his natural constituency is fairly narrow. Like Dr. Kennedy, he’s going to get shellacked. The polls have him down by almost 50 percentage points.

I will welcome that result, mostly to keep John Curtis in Washington, but partly because Chris Herrod is an excellent poster child for my dictum that anyone who professes to be the one true conservative in the race (a) probably isn’t a mainstream conservative and (b) will almost never get this conservative’s vote.

Again, I recommend that you take an hour to watch or listen to this debate, and see if you don’t agree. This is like the Romney-Mike Kennedy debate (see above) — or like the Sacramento Kings playing the Golden State Warriors (except that technically both those teams are in the same league, even if they’re really not). Watch Congressman Curtis destroy Mr. Herrod’s complaints about Bus Rapid Transit, for example.

Utah County Commission, Seat A

Utah County Commissioner

This is a county-wide Republican primary race. It appears only on registered Republicans’ ballots.

I freely admit that I’m working from insufficient data here . . .

When Tanner Ainge ran for Congress last year in the special election, I thought he was out of his depth and trying too hard to be the one true conservative. He has the Daily Herald endorsement, but there’s nothing at his campaign website to allow me to evaluate his positions with any confidence, and I haven’t heard a debate.

At least Tom Sakievich’s website has some clear positions on issues — but a lot of them are ideologically loaded, mostly national issues, not county-focused, which is a big red flag for me. That said, I like his biography better — partly because there’s a lot more of it (as in, more life experience).

Neither candidate trips my all-tax-cuts-all-the-time red flag for county commission races, so that’s refreshing. Neither has convinced me of his sensible commitment to public transit, which is unfortunate.

If I had a vote in this race . . . well, two things: (1) I would have studied the candidates more carefully, and (2) I would probably lean toward Ainge, but without much enthusiasm.

Utah County Attorney

Utah County Attorney

This is a Republican primary race. It appears only on registered Republicans’ ballots.

Speaking of insufficient data, I don’t know either candidate well, and I don’t get to vote anyway. If I did, I’d vote for Chad Grunander, on the strength of American Fork Chief of Police Darren Falslev’s public endorsement. (Here’s Leavitt’s campaign website. He might be a good choice too. I don’t know.)

Utah County Sheriff

Utah County Sheriff

This is a Republican primary race. It appears only on registered Republicans’ ballots.

Jim Phelps (campaign website here) turned me off by whining too much about off-duty officers putting up a sign for his opponent. I like Mike Smith’s (campaign website here) endorsements better. So I’d favor Smith, if I had a vote, but I’d really want to know more about both before marking my ballot.

Mind the Deadline

Whomever you support in any of these races, remember that your mail-in ballot must be postmarked no later than Monday, June 25.

Last but not least, comments are welcome, within the bounds of civility and propriety. Thanks for reading!