Analysis: McAdams won 10 Republican-controlled House districts in 2016

Ben McAdamsOh, what could have been! Utah Democrats picked up one seat in the Utah House in the 2016 election. They might have had a lot more if they had followed Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ lead.

There are 28 Utah House districts in Salt Lake County. Utah Democrats control 13 of them. But, an analysis by finds McAdams, a Democrat, won a majority vote in 23 of those districts.

Three of the four closest legislative races in Salt Lake County were won by Republicans. However, McAdams captured a majority in each of those districts.

  • Rep. LaVar Christensen prevailed in HD 32 by just five votes. McAdams won by 180.
  • Rep. Craig Hall won HD 33 by 119 votes. McAdams won that district by a whopping 2,110 votes.
  • Rep. Bruce Cutler eked out a 277 vote win in HD 44. McAdams was an overwhelming winner there with a 3,084 margin.


Those were the close calls, but McAdams also prevailed in seven other Republican-controlled districts.

  • HD 45, won by Rep. Steve Eliason.
  • HD 39, which is home to former House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan.
  • HD 30, which elected freshman Rep. Mike Winder.
  • HD 49, represented by Rep. Robert Spendlove.
  • HD 38, which re-elected Rep. Eric Hutchings.
  • HD 43, controlled by Rep. Adam Gardinier.
  • HD 47, which is the seat occupied by Rep. Ken Ivory.

McAdams also outperformed the Democratic legislative candidate in seven districts seats that Democrats won.

  • Elizabeth Weight squeaked out a 240-vote win in HD 31. McAdams prevailed there by more than 2,000 ballots.
  • Susan Duckworth held on to her seat in the House by 409 votes. McAdams more than tripled Duckworth’s total, winning by 1,338 in HD 22.
  • Karen Kwan won HD34 by 1,073 votes. McAdams more than doubled that total.
  • Sandra Hollins won the reliably Democratic HD23 by 3,006 votes. McAdams got more than 800 more votes on election day.
  • Mark Wheatley prevailed in HD35 by 3,345 votes. McAdams tallied 4,166.
  • Carol Spackman Moss won HD37 by 3,451. McAdams got 1,000 more votes than that.
  • Lynn Hemmingway won HD40 by 5,346 votes. McAdams scored 6,922 there.

Clearly, McAdams ability to attract Republican and unaffiliated voters has not transferred to legislative candidates. One could suggest that McAdams does not have any political “coattails” for other Democrats to ride on.

On the other hand, the results also suggest that the “Democratic brand” is so thoroughly damaged, even in Salt Lake County, that even voters in reliably Democratic districts are not completely sold on their Democratic candidates. For McAdams to be outpolling longtime legislators like Spackman Moss, Duckworth and Hemingway should give Democrats pause.