Utah's first female Senate minority leader may have won the position in a coin toss, but Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, said that doesn't diminish the significance of her election.

"Not at all, because I'm still the minority leader and able to implement the many items I have in mind for the minority party in the Senate," Jones said. "We can still push forth an agenda that's important to the people of Utah."

The Senate's eight Democrats voted on their leaders last Friday. Jones said the caucus deadlocked 4-4 between her and Senate Minority Whip Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price.

So the caucus resorted to tossing a coin to choose its new leader, as well as to decide the race between Sens. Karen Mayne of West Valley and Scott McCoy of Salt Lake for assistant minority whip. Mayne won the coin toss — and the position in leadership.

The other two Senate minority leadership races were decided only after candidates withdrew, leaving Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, as Senate minority whip and Senator-elect Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, as Senate minority caucus manager.

State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland, who helped run the election, said everyone in the caucus agreed to the coin flip to decide the tied races. "There was no other way to do it," Holland said. "Leaders have become leaders by different methods over history."

He said one reason there may have been a split over who should become minority leader is that there is now an equal number of men and women in the caucus after two more Democratic women were elected Nov. 4.

Democrats gained GOP Sen. Carlene Walker's seat with a win by Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights. And Robles takes over for Democrat Fred Fife, after beating him in the primary.

Jones said she wasn't sure how she felt about her fate being determined by chance. "I don't know how to answer that," she said. "I guess what happens in life is you prepare yourself, you work hard ... and then life is a coin toss in many cases."


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