Now that all the party conventions are over, and the winners and losers identified, just what will the primary races in the Utah Legislature look like?
Actually, there are not that many Senate primaries this year, in either the Republican or Democratic parties.
The 29-member state Senate, where 15 seats are up this year, has only three primary contests, one Democratic, two Republicans.
In the 75-member House, where all the seats are up, there are but 15 primaries between the two major parties.
The primary election day is June 26. The GOP has closed primaries, you have to be a registered Republican to vote in that party. But independents can register as a Republican on Election Day at the polls and vote in that primary.
Democrats hold open primaries, any registered voter can vote in that primary.
It is likely most Utahns will vote in the Republican primary, however, since it has the most interesting races, especially in the U.S. Senate race between 36-year-veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
The GOP primary got a lot less interesting, however, when in state convention balloting Chris Stewart won the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love won the 4th District Republican nomination.
In any case, the state Senate matches up two GOP incumbents against two challengers from the House – a rather different pairing.
Usually, the House member sitting under a senator of the same party doesn’t challenge his colleague, but waits for him to retire before trying to move to the upper body.
But because of redistricting in 2011, Reps. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, and Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, believe they have some advantages in their new geographic areas.
Painter got into a primary with veteran Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, in Senate District 24.
And Vickers is in a primary with newly-appointed Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, in Senate District 28.
On the Democratic side, former Rep. Ty McCartney and citizen activist Josie Valdez are in a primary in Senate District 8, which is an open seat with the retirement of Sen. Karen Morgan, R-Cottonwood Heights.
When the late Sen. Dennis Stowell died of cancer last year, Vickers put his name into the delegate pool election. But Anderson, a political newbie, won that special delegate vote.
Now there is a new delegate pool in Senate 28.
At the state GOP convention last Saturday (where the multi-county Senate Districts 24 and 28 elections were held) party chairman Thomas Wright asked all the first-time delegates to stand. Easily more than two-thirds were new.
So both Painter and Vickers had new people, who had not voted for Okerlund or Anderson before, in their Senate districts to draw upon for support.
Vickers told UtahPolicy during the 2012 Legislature that he believes he had a chance to beat Anderson for several reasons, one being that the new Senate District 28 takes in some areas not in the old district, including Vickers’ birthplace.
A few interesting side bits to the Senate convention results:
-- The state Senate could have its first Asian-American. Brian Shiozawa in the county GOP convention eliminated two other Republicans to win the Republican nomination outright. He now faces the winner of the Valdez/McCartney Democratic primary.
-- Utah could have its first husband/wife legislative team. Valdez, who survived the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention, is the wife of Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray.
Since by law a legislator must live in his or her district, no husband or wife could serve with a spouse in either the House or Senate. So to be in the Legislature together, one would have to serve in the House, the other in the Senate.
A spouse of a legislator has run before, but never been elected.
Because of convention action, there are four incumbent senators who now have no major party opposition.
Sens. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan; Mark Madsen, R-Lehi; John Valentine, R-Orem; and Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan; have no Democratic opposition and so will win re-election. (Several of the men have Constitution Party opponents, but no third party candidate has been elected to the Legislature since the 1920s.)
The House has a mix of geographic primaries, two Democratic and 13 Republican.
And two of the races are interesting match-ups, with well-known government/political reformers in the mixes.
-- Former Utah Tax Commission chief economist Doug Macdonald faces Richard Bagley in a Democratic Party showdown in House District 18 (southern Davis County).
The winner there faces long-time GOP incumbent Roger Barrus, R-Centerville.
-- In northern Utah, two incumbents – placed together in redistricting – survived the state GOP convention and now face each other in House District 29.
Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry (that’s right, his town is named for his forbearers), is up against Rep. Brad Galvez, R-West Haven.
Both men are freshmen, elected in 2010. And that is one reason that when it became clear because of population shifts that northern Utah would need to lose one House seat through redistricting, the two were paired up. (There were no Democratic incumbents in northern Utah to sacrifice.)
-- In a surprise result, the House’s longest-serving Democrat, Neal Hendrickson, D-West Valley, was forced into a primary with Liz Muniz.
Hendrickson has become – partly through attrition – one of the more conservative Democrats in the House, voting with the GOP majority in a number of controversial areas.
For example, Henderson voted for the much-hated HB477, the GRAMA reform bill, in the 2011 Legislature when most Democrats (and even many Republicans) voted against it.
Muniz is running to the left of Hendrickson. For example, she got the endorsement of the gay Democratic caucus.
The demographics of West Valley City are changing as well, and Muniz is an Hispanic when that ethic group is growing in House District 33.
-- While it is not a surprise that Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, was forced into a primary in House District 68, it is a bit of a surprise that government reformer Merrill Nelson is in the race with Wright.
Wright is the sponsor of the controversial HB116, the state’s illegal immigrant guest worker law. And a number of conservative Republicans oppose the measure.
In fact, three Republicans filed against him.
But Nelson is more moderate, not more conservative, than Wright.
A former GOP Rep. from Grantsville, Nelson has increasingly become more involved with several government reform efforts in recent years, including an ethics/campaign citizen initiative that is now battling in court to make it on the 2012 ballot.
(Macdonald, likewise, has been involved in government reform measures, often on tax issues.)
-- In Vicker’s old House seat District 72, John Westwood, a Cedar City banker, is up against Matthew Carling, a Cedar City attorney.
-- Four other House GOP incumbents failed to win their nominations outright in their conventions, and so face a primary opponent.
They are: Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan, against Edward Redd in District 4. Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, and Chris Crowder in District 16. Rep. Douglass Sager, R-Tooele, and Alison McCoy in District 21. And Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, and Dana Layton.
The other GOP primaries are among newcomers seeking to file a seat vacated by an incumbent, or a newly-drawn district that has no incumbent.
They are: Jake Anderson and Seth Moore in District 6; Mike Kennedy and Sarah Nitta in District 27; Ryan Jenkins and Fred Johnson in District 31; Taz Murray and Kevin Stratton in District 48; Christy Kane and Kay Christofferson in District 56; and Brian Green and John Stevens in District 57.
Of the House primary races, the Henderson/Muniz and the Wright/Nelson should be the most compelling.
The winner of the Macdonald/Bagley Democratic contest will have an uphill fight against Barrus. Davis County hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Utah House in decades.
The Perry/Galvez winner will have a Democratic opponent. But, again, it’s been more than 20 years since a Democratic from northern Utah has been in the Legislature.
The other GOP races may or may not have a Democratic opponent, but except for the District 31 race (where the incumbent is Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley), the ultimate GOP nominee should win in heavily Republican districts.
Henderson or Muniz will face a GOP opponent in the final election in a district that has been growing more Republican in recent elections.
The Tooele County-based District 68 was held by a Democrat some years ago. But new residents have been moving in, making it more Republican. There is a Democrat in the race, as well, and the newly-drawn district wraps around down south.
Either Westwood or Carling wins in District 72. There’s no Democrat in that race, only a Libertarian.
Your can read the updated legislative candidate match-ups at: http://elections.utah.gov/election-resources/2012-candidate-filings.