SALT LAKE CITY — After two Republican candidates for state Senate District 13 suspended their campaigns Tuesday, it appeared Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, would be running unopposed.
On Wednesday, the race took another twist.
A day after Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, and Jimmy Eaton both suspended their campaigns, Eaton decided to get back into the race and challenge Anderegg for the seat currently held by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs.
Eaton said he decided to suspend his campaign because he failed to gather enough signatures to bypass the state GOP convention, a route to the primary ballot allowed under SB54. And he didn't see a way to beat two sitting legislators at the April 23 convention.
Just hours later, Lifferth announced on social media that he was suspending his campaign, leaving Anderegg as the lone GOP candidate in District 13. Attempts to reach Lifferth for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Anderegg called Lifferth's move "totally unexpected."
Eaton said he started gathering signatures in March and hadn't collected enough before the state's deadline Monday. But the convention route became a more attractive option when Lifferth pulled out, Eaton said, and he re-entered the race Wednesday.
"There has been an overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement by state delegates, mayors, councilmen and constituents expressing their desire for me to run, and run with all my heart," Eaton said in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.
Lifferth recently submitted a formal complaint with the lieutenant governor's office, alleging that Anderegg and Madsen were not correctly documenting campaign contributions and expenses, said Mark Thomas, state elections director.
In a January blog post, Lifferth said he had "heard from lobbyists that donated to (Anderegg and Madsen's) campaigns to pay for them and their wives to go to Italy and Switzerland." Online campaign finance reports did not match up with what the lobbyists had told him, Lifferth claimed.
Pictures and social media posts from that trip from Anderegg and his wife, Julie, were included in Lifferth's post.
"The photos and the accounting of this trip to Rome, Italy, were all brought to me by other legislators and elected officials that are outraged by these abuses of elected office," Lifferth said in an April 9 blog post.
Lifferth was specifically concerned with some contributions Anderegg filed late and was fined for in January, Thomas said. The allegations and formal complaint came weeks later.
"Rep. Anderegg has already been fined for not reporting his plane tickets," Lifferth's blog post said. "But what is online still doesn't match what the lobbyist told me."
Thomas said the delayed response to Anderegg's financial disclosures was "a little bit strange. It was something that was already done and over with."
After talking to Anderegg, Thomas said the office decided there was no further action needed. The complaints against Madsen are still being investigated, he said.
After the lieutenant governor's office released the results of its investigation Tuesday afternoon, Lifferth announced on social media that he was suspending his his campaign.
Eaton said he had talked to Lifferth earlier Wednesday and was excited to move forward.
"It's game on," he said.