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Park City School Board race takes partisan turn

One of the vehicles in the Summit County Republican Party Miners' Day parade entry.
One of the vehicles in the Summit County Republican Party Miners' Day parade entry.

While local school board races in Utah are non-partisan, one current contest in Park City appears to be unfolding along party lines.

Many voters decide how to cast their ballots based on candidates’ political parties. But some elected offices aren’t partisan - like local school boards.

This year, however, the race for the Park City School District 4 seat, representing Jeremy Ranch, has featured several partisan elements.

Candidate Meredith Reed, who won the June primary, is a former chair of the Summit County Democratic Party. When she announced her candidacy, her campaign texted voters in her district announcing that she was the only Democrat running. Later, Reed’s campaign mailed out a flyer that she paid for and was printed by the Utah Democratic Party.

The partisan politics ramped up over Labor Day weekend. Reed’s opponent, Mandy Pomeroy, had supporters walk with Republican candidates in the Miners’ Day parade. The group was organized by the Summit County Republican Party and featured candidates like State Sen. Ron Winterton and State Rep. Kera Birkeland, along with signs for others, including Pomeroy and U.S. Senator Mike Lee, and a sign that said “Vote Republican.”

Pomeroy was out of town. She said her campaign was represented by friends, relatives and supporters.

Reed attended the parade with District 5 school board candidate Nick Hill. The two rode the parade route together in a convertible blue sports car with a giant inflatable unicorn in back. They also had signs, but none represented a party affiliation.

Hill is challenging incumbent board president Erin Grady for the District 5 seat, which covers Pinebrook. Grady was also out of town during the parade.

Reed told KPCW that given her past work with the county Democrats, her party affiliation is public record, and she’s running to give back to the community, which she called a non-partisan pursuit.

She confirmed that the Summit County Democratic party supports her candidacy and has contributed to it.

Pomeroy first said her campaign’s involvement with the Republican contingent was “misinformation.” She said her supporters are non-partisan and likely didn’t know they were walking with Republican candidates, and she couldn’t control who put her signs on parade vehicles but accepted everyone’s support.

She also said a parade announcer read a statement as the Republicans passed by telling the crowd her supporters were non-partisan.

KPCW obtained a copy of the announcers’ parade script with information to be read as each entry passed, and that phrase was not in it. Additionally two announcers told KPCW they did not read or hear any non-partisan announcements about Pomeroy’s campaign.

A local Republican official, who planned the parade signage and didn’t want their name in this report, confirmed communicating with Pomeroy to plan her campaign participation before the parade. That official said the parade entry included members of the Summit County Freedom party and others.

Pomeroy said she is an unaffiliated voter and has not received any official party endorsements. After initially suggesting the Summit County Republican Party put her signs on their vehicles without her knowledge, she later confirmed that they had invited her campaign to join them.

Utah State Board of Education member Carol Lear, who represents Park City, said politicizing school board races is unfortunate. She said there’s nothing unethical about bringing parties into the race, but it’s bad for education as it can promote catering to extremes.