Status Quo Reigns for Utah’s Democrats Following Election Night 2014

The good news for Utah’s Democrats is they once again have an elected official from outside of Salt Lake County.

Former Rep. Brad King returns to Capitol Hill after defeating Republican Bill Labrum in House District 69. That means there will be one more Democrat in the 2015 Legislature than there was in 2014. One single pickup for Utah’s minority party.

The bad news is they basically got pasted everywhere else.

Attorney General Sean Reyes, Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart all coasted to easy wins over their Democratic opponents.

And Doug Owens fell short in the race to replace Rep. Jim Matheson. Republican Mia Love bested him by a little more than three points.

Owens was closing on Love, but he simply ran out of time.

Democrats did manage to hold on to a couple of seats that were in danger from Republican challengers – Larry Wiley was able to fend off a tough challenge from Sophia DiCaro by 33 votes.

Sandra Hollins became the first black woman elected to Utah’s Legislature as she won the race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jen Seelig.

Mike Lee keeps the open House District 30 seat in Democratic hands beating former Rep. Fred Cox.

Justin Miller and Christine Passey also kept open seats in Democratic hands.

But, those victories are a bittersweet ending for Utah’s minority party that clearly had designs on making bigger strides this year.

Aside from the King pickup in House District 69, they did not win a single one of their targeted races. For example:

  • Senate District 12 – They fell short in the quest to defeat freshman Sen. Daniel Thatcher. Democrats poured money and resources into the race in support of Claire Collard, but she couldn’t reclaim that district for the Democrats.
  • House District 33 – Liz Muniz, who fell tantalizingly short in her race against Rep. Craig Hall in West Valley lost by double digits in her rematch with him.
  • House District 34 – Karen Kwan who jumped into the District 34 contest when Celina Milner decided to not take another shot at Rep. Johnny Miller lost by 202 votes.
  • House District 43 – Democrats thought they had a shot at knocking out Earl Tanner because of a very aggressive campaign by Diane Lewis, but she ended up getting shellacked by more than 13 points.
  • House District 49 – Zach Robinson was hoping to nip Rep. Robert Spendlove the first time he appeared on the ballot (he assumed the seat when Derek Brown resigned to take a job for Sen. Mike Lee). He lost by double digits.

They also hoped to win a House seat in Northern Utah as well, but couldn’t pull off a win.

In many of those seats Democrats outspent their Republican opponent but couldn't pull out the win.

They did hang on to the Salt Lake County District Attorney and Sheriff’s offices with Sim Gill and Jim Winder, respectively.

Democrats talked this entire election season about how they were going to register new voters and get them to the polls to win close races this time around. That didn’t happen, and now they’re left wondering what to do next.

In his concession speech, Owens said “we will lie on the ground and bleed for a while, then we will get back up and fight again.”

With the Stormont loss, Democrats have now lost 28 statewide elections in a row.

When they do get to their feet, Utah’s Democrats will have to come up with a new strategy heading into 2016, because what they tried this year simply didn’t work.