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LOW TURNOUT, FEW SURPRISES IN UTAH PRIMARIES

SHARE LOW TURNOUT, FEW SURPRISES IN UTAH PRIMARIES

Maybe it was the hot weather. Maybe it was the change in the primary day. Whatever it was, Tuesday's primary election across Utah generally had low voter turnout and few surprises. Turnout varied across the state, of course, averaging about 10 percent. But 55 percent of voters cast ballots in a south-central Utah House district, so not all Utahns stayed home.Emery County Commissioner Dixie Thompson appears to have won a slim victory over Provo businessman Tom Draschil in the 3rd Congressional District GOP race. But a recount likely will be held in the Republican primary - the premier contest Tuesday. Thompson's showing wasn't a surprise; last weekend's Deseret News/KSL poll by Dan Jones & Associates showed her ahead. But the closeness of the race brought some drama to an otherwise dull primary.

With all but one voting precinct to be counted - tiny Ticaboo in Garfield County - Thompson held a 156-vote lead over Draschil out of 32,000 votes cast.

Ticaboo has only 25 voters. They mailed their ballots to the Garfield County clerk, where they will be counted as part of the official canvass next week. Assuming the count so far is correct, even if all voted for Draschil, Thompson would still win.

"I'm just glad it's over, and we will accept that we won," a worn-out Thompson said Wednesday morning.

Thompson expects her lead to hold after the recount. She hadn't expected the race to be so close.

"We were hoping there would be more of a turnout," she said. The scarcity of voters might have helped Draschil. The conservative, anti-abortion group Utah Eagle Forum, headed by Gayle Ruzicka, worked feverishly to get Draschil supporters to the ballot box.

"He really pulled things together in seven weeks. That's impressive," Thompson said.

Thompson might be talking like a winner, but Draschil is not conceding defeat. He said he's "awfully interested" in the results of a recount. "The difference could go either way," he said, adding that he will request such a recount.

"We worked as hard as we could. I'm not going to second- guess anything," Draschil said Wednesday morning.

Both Thompson and Draschil said they will abide by whatever the final recount shows.

"It's been nerve-wracking," said Draschil, who watched as he got closer to Thompson as more votes came in, but he never quite caught up.

The winner faces Democratic Rep. Bill Orton, one of the most popular politicians in the state. Thompson said she's ready to go after Orton.

The main reason Republican and Democratic party leaders pressed the 1993 Legislature to move the primary election date from early September to the last Tuesday in June was to give the eventual party nominees more time to run against each

other.

In that regard, the June primary accomplished what party leaders wanted - an early out in intra-party races and the long, hot summer to raise money and develop grass-roots organizations.

If the 3rd District GOP nominee won't be decided for several more days, maybe even a week, the legislative decision looks even better. If the same results had happened in a September primary, the Republican would have had even less time to raise money and battle Orton.

Across the state, a few incumbents fell. And some incumbents who were expected to fall didn't.

State Sen. Delpha Baird, R-Holladay, who touted her defense of children for the past four years, was trounced by newcomer Steve Poulton. Baird angered insider Republicans with her criticism of some of GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt's appointees and often put off colleagues with her dogmatic approach to child-welfare issues.

Six-year Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful, was defeated. She was the subject of last-minute criticism by her party's Davis County central committee and two pro-life groups. Former Juvenile Court Judge Charles (Ted) Bradford unseated Lyon after an intense campaign that turned on his con-ser-vatism vs. Lyon's moderate legislative record. Democratic Party officials have disavowed Clay Swank, who filed as a Democrat in the race, saying he's not really a Democrat. So Bradford should easily win the seat.

Rep. Clark Reber, R-South Jordan, who is finishing a two-year term after being out of the Utah House for several years, was defeated by former GOP Rep. Lloyd Frandsen. Frandsen was heavily backed by the Utah Education Association and outspent Reber, who ran an underfunded primary race, more than 3-to-1.

Freshman Rep. Russell Cannon, R-Sandy, is also gone. In the dog-eat-dog GOP politics of Sandy, Cannon was challenged and beaten by West Jordan Assistant City Attorney Greg Curtis. Cannon, a former city prosecutor, was criticized for his combative debate style. He also pushed several government-reform issues that didn't sit well with legislative colleagues. No Democrat filed in the district, so Curtis should win the seat.

While Baird, Lyon, Reber and Cannon are gone, 16-year Rep. Jack Arrington, D-Ogden, is back. Arrington held on to his safe Democratic inner-city seat. He handily defeated Betty Sawyer, head of the state's Black Advisory Council, in a race that many believed Arrington couldn't win. Arrington embarrassed Democratic lawmakers last year with some unfortunate comments in a legislative committee hearing about minority jurors' ability to serve. Sawyer, a black, didn't make race an issue in the campaign, but many still expected her to do well in a district with a heavy minority population.

- In Salt Lake County, firebrand Pearl Meibos lost to Gene Whitmore in the GOP commission primary. Whitmore now faces Democratic County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi. Meibos, it may be fair to say, hates Horiuchi and decided to run against Horiuchi after he voted to expand a south county shopping mall, taking property owned by Meibos' family.

Horiuchi gamely professed that he wanted Meibos to win, that she would be easier to beat than Whitmore. Horiuchi said Whit-more was a mainstream conservative, while Meibos was a one-issue candidate "who made even me look normal."

- In Davis County, Sheriff Glenn Clary was defeated by one of his officers, Sgt. Rob Davis. Davis complained early in the race that Clary pressured him not to run. But he did and took his boss out.

- In Utah County, GOP County Commissioners Richard Johnson and Malcolm Beck were defeated. Johnson was beaten by David J. Gardner, who has no Democratic opponent, so he'll win the seat. Beck was defeated by Jerry Grover, who faces Democrat Thomas Anderson, who defeated former Utah County Democratic Party chairman Bob Stringham in the primary.

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Additional Information

Election stories inside

Gene Whitmore's low-profile campaign pays off with the Republican nomination for the Salt Lake County Commission; Pete Kutulas wins Democratic sheriff primary race/ B1

Two State Tax Commission employees win nominations for Salt Lake County assessor/ A11

27 Utah counties hold local primary elections/ A12

David Buhler defeats Phil H. Uipi, Steve Poulton upsets Delpha Baird and Scott Leckman defeats Steven Wall in Salt Lake County's state Senate races/ A13

Republican lawmaker Nancy Lyon is soundly defeated, and Reps. Russ Cannon, Sandy, and Clark Reber, South Jordan - both noted conservatives - are ousted by Republican moderates/ A13

Dick Loomis and Ann C. Forbush win nominations for Jordan School Board/ A13

UTAH PRIMARY

Results

U.S. Congress-3rd District

Dixie Thompson (R) 15,903

Tom Draschil (R) 15,747

S.L. County Commission

Gene Whitmore (R) 12,984

Pearl Meibos (R) 10,389

S.L. County Sheriff

Pete Kutulas (D) 4,787

Lou Bertram (D) 2,368

Davis County Sheriff

Rob Davis (R) 8,345

Glenn Clary (R-inc) 6,849

Utah County Commission

SEAT A

Jerry D. Grover (R) 6,248

Malcolm H. Beck (R-inc) 5,609

C. Thomas Anderson (D) 404

Robert W. Stringham (D) 340

SEAT B

David J. Gardener (R) 6,029

Richard A. Johnson (R-inc.) 5,206