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By only a two-vote margin, Davis County Republicans choose a new leader Saturday morning and were told the United States must maintain its military strength despite moves toward democracy in communist nations.

Mark J. Taylor, a Centerville resident and member of the Salt Lake law firm Strong & Hanni, edged out Bountiful merchant Lois Pickett by a 43 to 41 vote to win the party's chairmanship. Bountiful businessman Terry Jessop received 26 votes during a convention at Viewmont High School.Taylor will replace Steven Smoot, a Farmington commercial property developer who has held the post for two years.

Taylor said that one of his first priorities is to talk to county commissioners William Peters and Gayle Stevenson about their differences with the third commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence. The pair has been at odds with Lawrence on several issues including the future of a county animal control program, a new jail and fair grounds.

"I want to offer assistance to help see if they can get along with each other," Taylor said.

In a convention speech, Taylor promised to meet with the new executive board and formulate a plan for the next two years, complete a leader handbook, conduct district chairmen training, form a county fund raising club and form a study group to implement a voter identification program.

In other convention balloting, Centerville homemaker Laura Graham won the vice chairmanship in an election with Syracuse Mayor DeLore Thurgood. Farmington attorney Karlynn Hinman won the secretary post in a race with Kaysville education administrator Karl Hutchinson. In another close race, Bountiful accountant Bob Huish won the treasurer post in an election with Kaysville accountant Steven Carver by a vote of 59 to 50.

Keynote speaker Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, told the 107 convention delegates that the nation must remain suspicious of communist nations, even in the face of democratic reforms in the Soviet Union and student protests calling for democracy in the People's Republic of China.

"In effect, over the last 41 years, we have won the Cold War. We are the winners. We have seen democracy go into totalitarian governments. Little by little we are starting to win this thing. But, back during the Cold War we knew how to handle it.

"I love to see what is happening in Asia and Europe, but I have a little suspicion in my mind," Hansen said.

The nation cannot afford to unilaterally back down on its defenses. Such a decision may be as careless as English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who believed Adolf Hilter when he said the Germans would not attack Czechoslovakia.

In a farewell speech, Smoot said that the accomplishments of his term serve as "stepping stones" to the new leadership. He recounted the success of a voter identification program that helped get out 92 percent of Davis County's registered voters in November, the fact that party caucuses were held in every district of the county last year and more than 1,300 people were involved in leadership roles.

Lt. Gov. Val Oveson, in a speech calling for party unity, said he believed that diversity was a strength of the Utah Republican Party, particularly when those who have differing opinions can reach a consensus.