In a surprise move, state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, announced Wednesday morning that she won’t run for re-election this year, retiring from the Senate after eight years, just two terms.
She made the announcement on Twitter.
Henderson’s withdrawal from the SD7 race is fueling speculation she may be tapped as a running mate for one of the five Republicans running for governor who has not yet named their LG nominee. So far, only Thomas Wright and Jon Huntsman have named their campaign partners.
Henderson’s District 7 seat is heavily Republican and likely will draw a number of Republicans to run for the open seat, perhaps including several incumbent House members. Under Utah law, you have to live within House and Senate boundaries to run for a, or hold, a legislative seat.
Possible candidates only have until Thursday end of business to file for her seat.
Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, texted UtahPolilcy.com Wednesday morning: “Certainly considering it today,” when asked if he would run for Henderson’s seat.
Henderson already had one GOP challenger, Flor de Maria Sulbaran, who is only taking the convention route, and not seeking signatures to make the primary.
Henderson, who lost a special convention vote in 2018 for a 3rd U.S. House district race to replace retiring Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also was only going to take the delegate convention route this year.
And if any candidates decide to take the signature route, they will need to get 2,000 signatures of register Republican voters in the Senate district by April 15 — or just under four weeks — to make a primary ballot that way.
The Utah Republican Party has already announced they won’t be holding neighborhood caucuses this year because of the coronavirus and will be using the same delegates who were elected 2018 and hold conventions online. This, too, will be a challenge for Senate District 7 candidates, especially Republicans who will likely just be getting in the party nomination race.
Facing a convention fight against Sulbaran — and perhaps some other Republicans before the Friday filing deadline — the senator may have had second thoughts about her coming out of the Utah County GOP convention — which typically have very conservative county delegates.
In hindsight, one can see Henderson’s frustration in serving in the Senate.
At one point she was seen as a rising star in Utah GOP legislative politics — perhaps even becoming the first female Senate president.
But in recent years she has had her internal disagreements with some of her GOP colleagues — first thinking about running for a member of GOP Senate leadership, then not doing so.
She was a member of the Senate Rules Committee, an important post, in 2017-2018, but was not reappointed by the new Senate President, Stuart Adams, in 2019.
In the 2020 session, she was one of six female senators (all the women in the Senate) — four Democrats and two Republicans — who spontaneously walked out, and didn’t vote, on a controversial House bill that would have required women seeking an abortion in Utah to view an ultrasound of the fetus and listen to a heartbeat.
A widely-publicized picture of the six women, locked arms-in-arms in solidarity, ran in newspapers and online.
After the Senate amended the bill prohibiting an invasive vaginal ultrasound probe, the bill had to go back to the House, where a majority of lawmakers circled the bill, and it was not heard or voted on again before adjournment midnight last Thursday.
But Henderson and other female senators spoke against the bill before they walked off the floor.
And that action by Henderson could, also, have made her GOP re-nomination more difficult — especially in ultra-conservative/LDS Utah County.
In any case, a young, articulate GOP female candidate is, at least for now, ending her political career after being touted as a rising star, but then losing a U.S. House race in a conservative-driven 2018 convention and facing conservative challenger this year.
You can read her Tweets below:
This morning I withdrew as a candidate for re-election to the Utah State Senate. For the past eight years I have been extremely honored to represent Senate District 7 on Utah’s Capitol Hill.