Salt Lake County voters decided to stick with tried-and-true representation. With few exceptions, they returned incumbent candidates to the House of Representatives.

Voters returned all nine Republican legislators to office, while 12 of 17 Democrats were re-elected.The five incumbent Democrats who lost their races were: Allan C. Rushton, District 32; Arlo D. James, District 38; Sara Eubank, District 41; Paul Shepherd, District 42; and Darrell L. Jorgensen, District 47.

While Tuesday proved lucky for Republican challengers, it revealed some Democratic Party leaders as poor political forecasters.

Although House Minority Leader Kelly Atkinson, a manager of the Utah School Employees Association, won re-election easily, his party failed to pick up the three additional seats in Salt Lake County that he predicted they would gain earlier this fall.

Trading places

In fact, Democrats and Republicans swapped a number of House seats representing Salt Lake County. Prior to the election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 18-13. After the ballots were counted, the Republican representatives outnumbered Democrats 18-13.

And the general election added two women representatives, bringing the county's total to seven. While it's a gain, it's still far short of the 24 seats held by men.

In a political year that was dominated by the hotly contested 2nd Congressional District race, the Salt Lake County House races received little attention. Regardless of party affiliation, candidates almost universally listed crime, education and environmental issues as their chief concerns.

Many echoed returning Democrat Pete Suazo: "Utah must be willing to spend the money to provide adequate educational and community programs as alternatives to criminal and gang activities."

They also, to varying degrees, agreed that urban problems like transportation, health care and gun control are key issues.

Newcomers

The numbers added up just enough for two accountants seeking their first terms in office. Final but unofficial balloting shows just how close some of the numbers were.

In what proved to be a squeaker, Sue Lockman ousted James, who has served seven two-year terms, with a margin of only 3 percent.

In an equally narrow victory, Ron Bigelow defeated Rushton with 50 percent of the vote, compared to Rushton's 44.8 percent. A third party candidate received 5.2 percent of votes cast in the district.

Rushton had served four terms in office.

Darlene Gubler captured 54 percent of the vote to oust Eubank, D-Holladay, who was serving her first term. That upset returned the district to Republican control. Gubler is training and development director for Salt Lake Community College.

Eubank staged her own upset victory when she was elected to the House in 1992.

She was embroiled in an acrimonious legal battle with a former employee, although she and the employee later made amends and, in fact, the employee joined Eubank's campaign.

Insurance salesman David Bresnahan took 55 percent of the vote, surpassing Shepherd's 42 percent.

Bryan D. Holladay, who works in marketing for FHP Health Care, beat Jorgensen 52 percent to 42 percent. The rest of the ballots went to two third-party candidates.

GOP nabs open seats

Republican candidates also proved victorious in four of five battles for open seats, although no district changed party representation. Democrat Loretta Baca prevented Republicans from making a clean sweep of the open seats by winning election in District 27. Baca, who is an instructor and victim advocate for the 3rd District Juvenile Court, beat Joseph Toronto by capturing 55 percent of the vote.

Two Democratic incumbents, social worker Mary Carlson and educator Kurt Oscarson, held onto their seats by the very narrowest of margins. Republican challenger Brian Bellamy came within 99 votes of upsetting Carlson.

A scant 63 votes separated Republican David Slaughter and Oscarson.

Two incumbent Democrats were unopposed in their bids for re-election. Longtime representative Gene Davis, District 30, won the right to a fifth term. Brent Goodfellow, District 29, went unchallenged in his successful campaign for a sixth term. Goodfellow is an administrator at Salt Lake Community College. Davis works in public relations at Valley Mental Health.

Heading back

Incumbents returning to office are: Daniel H. Tuttle, D-West Valley City; Suazo, D-Salt Lake City; Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake City; David M. Jones, D-Salt Lake City; Steve Barth, D-Salt Lake City; Afton Bradshaw, R-Salt Lake City; Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City; Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City; Carlson, D-Salt Lake City; Neal Hendrickson, D-West Valley City; Orville Carnahan, R-Salt Lake City; Judy Ann Buffmire, D-Salt Lake City; Raymond Short, R-Salt Lake City; Michael Waddoups, R-Salt Lake City; Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake City; Atkinson, D-West Jordan; Robert H.M. Killpack, R-Murray; Melvin Brown, R-Midvale; Oscarson, D-Sandy; Shirley V. Jensen, R-Sandy; and R. Mont Evans, R-Riverton.