House Democrats Lose Three Seats They Thought They Had Won on Election Night

Oh, how quickly things can change. House Democrats were celebrating a one-seat pickup after Election Day. Then, when Salt Lake County revealed the final totals after absentee and same-day ballots were counted, three seats that Democrats thought they had won fell into Republican hands.

House District 30, 31 and 44 all flipped after the final canvass on Tuesday afternoon. Mike Lee, Larry Wiley and Christine Passey went from victors to the defeated after mail-in and provisional ballots were counted.

Fred Cox ended up defeating Lee by 47 votes. Sophia DiCaro knocked out Wiley after picking up a net 195 votes and Bruce Culter beat Passey by 53 votes.

That drops the number of Democrats in the House to just 12, which is their smallest number in recent history. Republicans now control 63 of the 75 seats.

With just a dozen seats, Democrats will be stretched thin when it comes to committee assignments. Dems will get at least one seat on each of the budget subcommittees, but some of those budget committees will have only one Democrat. Historically, Democrats try to put multiple members on the public and higher education budget committees. Depending on meeting schedules, Democrats may not be able to do that and still get at least one seat on every budget subcommittee.

Democrats will probably only get one seat in the House Rules Committee as well, since the makeup of that body is proportional to the seats held by each party. Republicans control 84% of the seats in the House. Unless new Speaker Greg Hughes wants to have a huge rules committee, it’s likely Democrats will only get one seat there.

But, this is a disaster for House Democrats any way you cut it.

That should make Wednesday night’s election for the new House Minority Leader very interesting.

“I tell people I’m not a member of the minority caucus, I tell them I’m a member of a SUPERminority, with the emphasis on super,” says Rep. Brian King jokingly.

That’s even more true now than ever.

King is facing off against Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck to replace retiring Minority Leader Jen Seelig. Whichever one wins on Wednesday night, they’ll only need 7 votes to get there.

Chavez-Houck says even though their numbers are small, they’ve been remarkably effective.

“We have a strong caucus and have been able to bring good legislation forward. We have been able to support each other in moving bills forward.”

That strength will be tested mightily in 2015.