With the GOP candidate nominating conventions now finished, a review of how the 75-member Utah House may well look in 2013-2014 becomes clearer.
And one stark change tops the list: The 14-member Utah County delegation is going to be chock full of newcomers. (There used to be 13 members of the Utah County delegation, all conservative Republicans. After redistricting an open seat was created in the northwestern part of the county, and now the delegation will have 14 members.)
In fact, the delegation will be at least half freshmen, with the possibility of nine out of 14 Utah County state House seats seeing new members.
It is a turnover rarely seen in any Wasatch Front county delegation – especially in Utah County which is dominated by Republicans and, thus, doesn’t see shifts between parties in elections.
Turnover happens every election year, of course. But House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, says she especially feels the loss of her Utah County colleagues.
“Yes, a lot of good friends” have or are leaving, Lockhart told UtahPolicy.
“It’s a normal thing, this turnover. There’s a misconception that there’s longevity in the House, but the average stay is only around six-and-a-half years.”
Lockhart said she’s told her 58-member GOP caucus that she plans on running again for speaker after the November general election.
Aside from more new faces, the seniority of the Utah County delegation is impacted and could play a part in leadership contests.
It’s fair to assume that the county delegation stood with Lockhart when she, by one vote, unseated then-Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, in the November 2010 leadership races.
Lockhart said she’ll campaign among the new Utah County representatives as she did among all of her caucus two years ago. “I’m taking nothing for granted and will campaign hard” for the speakership, she said. “My style is that I welcome all input.”
First let’s run down some names and elections among the Utah County delegation.
A whole slew of Utah County GOP representatives decided to either retire this year, run for higher office, or through redistricting were put in districts that no longer represent parts of Utah County. The results:
-- Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, ran for the state Senate against Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. Valentine beat him in the Utah County convention.
-- Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, ran for the U.S. Senate. He was eliminated in the state GOP convention.
-- Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork, announced his retirement.
-- Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, is running for state auditor. He’s in a primary with Auditor Auston Johnson, also a Republican.
-- Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, is running for the state Senate this year. He’s in a primary with Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe. Painter used to represent parts of Utah County. Now his district runs further south, and GOP newcomer Marc Roberts is in House District 67 race with a Democrat. The new district includes southwestern Utah County, and has no incumbent in it.
-- Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, ran for governor. He was eliminated in the state GOP convention.
-- Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, ran for the 4th Congressional District. He was eliminated in the state GOP convention.
-- Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, in the Utah County GOP convention was forced into a primary by Republican challenger Dana Layton in House District 60.
-- Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, is in a primary with former Rep. Merrill Nelson in House District 68. Wright used to represent a part of Utah County, but that district was redrawn and now flows more into Tooele County and has no areas of Utah County any more.
-- Finally, a whole new district, House District 2, was created in northwestern Utah County. Republican David Lifferth ended up having no other candidate, from any party, file for that seat. So he avoided a convention, primary and general election fight and is in the state House for sure.
As you can tell from some of the hometowns of the incumbents, several newly-drawn House districts take in parts of Utah County, but are also in surrounding counties.
It’s a bit of a shell game in trying to figure out how the current incumbents fit into the newly-drawn districts.
Last fall, the Legislature redistricted all 75 House and 29 Senate seats. Some incumbents retained much of their old geographic areas, while others found themselves in districts with very different make-ups.
No doubt that led to some incumbents deciding to run for higher office, and others decide to retire.
Aside from losing veteran conservative incumbents, there is a real experience drain in the House from Utah County.
-- Dougall is the vice chair of the all-powerful Executive Appropriations Committee and an appointed member of House GOP leadership. He’s gone.
-- Daw is the chair of the House Transportation Standing Committee. If he loses his primary, he’s out of that chairmanship.
-- Herrod is the vice chair of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice budget committee. He’s out of that position.
-- Morley is the co-chair of the Higher Education budget committee. He’s gone.
-- Painter is the chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee. He’s running for the Senate and is gone.
-- Sumsion is the vice chairman of the Public Education budget committee. He’s gone.
-- Sandstrom is the vice chairman of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Standing Committee. He’s gone.
-- Wright holds a special place in the heart of Lockhart’s leadership team. He is the co-chair of the Social Services budget committee and the chair of the Education Standing Committee. If he loses his primary, he’s gone.
The speaker also makes appointments to the Rules Committee, which controls the flow of bills through the process.
Morley and Wright sit on Rules. Morley is gone, Wright would be gone if he loses his primary.
While not from Utah County, House Rules chairman Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is also gone; he’s running for the state Senate.
Not counting any possible incumbent losses in GOP primaries, Lockhart notes that the 2012 elections start with 15 freshmen for sure coming into the 75-member House on the Republican side of the aisle.
“We are losing a lot of seasoned legislators,” she said.
“But new members, while lacking experience can bring other qualities,” like enthusiasm and new perspectives, which add to the flavor and good works of the Legislature, as well, she said.