Leadership Battles Set for Thursday on Utah’s Capitol Hill

Utah State CapitolUtah House and Senate Republicans will meet on Thursday night to pick their new leadership.

There are two major battles shaping up in the House on Thursday. Current House Majority Assistant Whip Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville) is challenging House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) for the #2 slot. Many observers expect Wilson to prevail in that vote.

With Wilson giving up his current slot on the leadership team to challenge Dunnigan, there’s a battle royale shaping up to replace him. At least six candidates are either announced or rumored to be in the running when the GOP caucus votes Thursday night.

  • Rep. John Knotwell (R-Herriman)
  • Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy)
  • Rep. Lowry Snow (R-St. George)
  • Rep. Jeremy Peterson (R-Ogden)
  • Rep. John Stanard (R-St. George)
  • Rep. Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville)

There may be more candidates who join the fray, but observers who are close to the situation say the likely victor is either Knotwell or Snow.

Hughes at this time has not drawn an opponent for his bid for a second term as Speaker. Same goes for current Majority Whip Rep. Francis Gibson (R-Mapleton).

Senate Republicans plan to elect their leadership team for the 2017 session on Thursday night as well, but there’s far less intrigue. The only contested race is for Assistant Majority Whip. The current holder of that seat, Sen. Pete Knudson (R-Brigham City) is facing a challenge from Sen. Deidre Henderson (R-Spanish Fork) and Sen. Wayne Harper (R-Taylorsville). If Henderson wins, she would be the first woman elected to the leadership of the Senate GOP caucus since Sen. Bev Evans who retired following the 2006 session.

Senate Democrats had not set a date for their leadership elections at the time of this article. There are four leadership positions and just five Democrats in the Senate, meaning someone will be the odd man out when it comes to leadership.

House Democrats are waiting until the end of November to elect their leadership. The minority party in the Senate appeared to have picked up four seats following Tuesday’s election while losing one. They plan to wait until the election results are final after all outstanding ballots are counted. That’s probably a wise move since Democrats lost three seats they thought they had won on election night in 2014 after the mail-in ballots were finally counted.