A Wave of Coming Senate Retirements Could Have House Members Looking to Move Up

Utah House 01Ten Utah House members enter 2016 with an interesting decision to make – do they want to run for the state Senate?

Through various sources, rumors and confirmations, UtahPolicy knows that four state senators won’t be running for re-election next year.

In fact, two have already announced their resignations – Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, is leaving the Senate Jan. 4 to become the new boss of the state’s Applied Technology Centers.

Sen. Al Jackson, R-Highland, is leaving sometime after the 2016 session ends to move to North Carolina, where his family will be close to his very talented basketball-playing son, who is going to Duke – a collegiate basketball powerhouse.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, has let it be known he won’t be running again in 2016, several sources told UtahPolicy.

And UtahPolicy was told Friday that long-time Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, will retire at the end of his fifth term in 2016.

In fact, of the 10 House Republicans who currently live in one of the four soon-to-be-gone senator’s districts, Rep. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, has already announced he’s running for Madsen’s seat next year. Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, has also announced he’s running to replace Madsen in 2016.

Osmond is the first to resign – just after the first of the year. 

Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, announced his intention to run for Osmond’s seat last week. If she’s going to enter the fray Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, has a decision to make over the Christmas holidays (if not sooner).

When Osmond’s seat officially becomes vacant, the GOP delegates for that area will gather to pick his replacement.

Any registered Republican living in the district can run, but it is usually the case that one of the House members who lives in a Senate district starts out with the upper hand, for his or her House delegates have already considered them for legislative office.

And those House delegates will vote in the Senate contest.

Whoever wins the most delegate votes will serve out the term of the senator.

Osmond was elected in 2012 to a four-year term, so he is up in 2016 – and whoever is appointed to his district will have to run for election later in 2016.

Oddly enough, there are eight House members whose districts are partly or wholly in Osmond’s Senate District 10 (click to see map).

But Utah law says a legislator has to live physically in his or her House or Senate district.

And through the Legislature’s excellent website, UtahPolicy was able to match House member’s home addresses to Senate district boundaries.

And of the eight House members only Cunningham and Coleman live in Senate District 10, the Senate maps show.

Jackson, who himself was elected by delegates when former long-time Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, resigned to become chairman of the Utah Tax Commission, has told Senate leaders that he will serve through the 45-day general session. The exact time of his resignation is not yet known.

Representatives, like all candidates seeking office in 2016, will have to file for re-election a day or so after the session ends in mid-March.

Thus, if Jackson doesn’t announce his departure date before the candidate-filing deadline, it would wise for the House members who live in his district to file for their House seats – waiting until the delegate vote comes up to see if they get that appointment.

Those who live in Jackson’s Senate District 14 are Reps. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine; Keven Stratton, R-Orem; and Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.

Stratton ran against Jackson when the latter was picked by delegates a year ago. Jackson won by just one vote over former Utah House Rep. Ken Sumsion.

State Democrats filed a complaint against Stratton when he ran for both his House re-election a year ago and sought Valentine’s open seat appointment. But the Elections Office ruled against the Democrats.

Jackson’s seat is up for election in 2016.

Four House members live inside Madsen’s Senate District 13.

They are Reps. John Knotwell, R-Herriman; Anderegg; Lifferth; and Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi.

Madsen, who has proven kind of a quirky conservative Republican (for example: he’s pushing for legalization of medical marijuana), basically announced his intentions to retire when over the last year he at times declined to meet with constituents over the relocation of the Utah State Prison – his Senate district was the site of two possible new prison locations, and local government leaders and voters were very much against getting the state prison.

Madsen’s seat is also up for election in 2016. It is unknown whether he will resign sometime next year or serve out his term.

While it is odd that eight House members represent parts of Osmond’s Senate district, what is really weird is that only one House member – freshman Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, lives in Jenkins District 20.

Three other House Republicans’ districts make up parts of Jenkins’ Senate district, but they live outside of Jenkins’ District 20, it appears.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, lists his official address on state records as a U.S. Post Office box. So UtahPolicy couldn’t find his home address.

But Ray also says he lives in Clearfield City, and it appears from Senate district maps that Jenkins’ district does not include the City of Clearfield.

So, come sometime in 2016 three Utah County-based state Senate districts will get new senators, as will the areas west of Ogden.

Whether any of the four new senators will be current Utah House members will be up to district GOP delegates and, later, voters.