A chorus of new faces is expected in both the Utah House and Senate this year as many incumbents have retired or are seeking higher office. And, in what may be a reflection of an anti-incumbent mood of voters, several longtime incumbents are facing primary challenges or were defeated in conventions.
Sixteen of Utah's 29 Senate seats are up for grabs this year, but only two have primary contests. Incumbent Sen. Dix McMullin, R-South Jordan, faces a primary challenge from Riverton City Councilman Brent C. Richards, who is running as a Republican but was once touted as one of the first elected Libertarians in the state.The most hotly contested Senate primary is in District 4, a new Senate district covering south Salt Lake County and north Utah County. Rep. Donald LeBaron, R-Highland, is making a bid for the Senate seat, as is Howard A. Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a lobby organization funded primarily by Utah businesses.
Stephenson, a registered lobbyist, has been accused of having too many conflicts of interest to serve the public interest, while LeBaron has been accused of being a pawn of the Utah Education Association.
The UEA and the Jordan Education Association have pumped more than $2,100 - more than in any other single legislative race - into LeBaron's campaign, and not a penny into Stephenson's.
Of the 75 House races, 19 feature primary contests. One Democratic and four Republican incumbents are being challenged from within their own party, and four of the five are from economically depressed rural Utah.
Also being challenged is Rep. Richard Bradford, R-Sandy, who narrowly staved off elimination at the state Republican convention. Bradford, who has served for 10 years, had planned to run for a Republican leadership position but may not make it past fellow Republican attorney Russell Cannon.
In staunchly Democratic Carbon County, the Democratic primary between incumbent John Garr and Tom Matthews may well decide who is seated in January. Garr was almost eliminated at the state Democratic convention and is now considered an underdog.