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Opinion: The red state just got redder

Local races in Utah are adding to the red wave that may not have hit the country, but definitely touched down in Utah

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“I voted” stickers on Election Day in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

“I voted” stickers on Election Day in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

If election night results hold, Utah, already a deep-red state, is set to get a little redder. 

In the Utah Legislature, which already has a super-super majority, two Democratic incumbents, Elizabeth Weight and Clare Collard, currently trail their Republican opponents. In District 26, Quinn Kotter, a chemical engineer, leads Rep. Weight by fewer than 250 votes. In District 27, Anthony Loubet, an attorney and former policy adviser to Salt Lake County Councilman David Alvord, leads Rep. Collard by 166 votes. Totals are updated every day at 5 p.m. and if the 2020 cycle repeats itself, some close races will reverse themselves by the time the canvas is completed in two weeks.

San Juan County is looking at a significant upheaval in its county commission, with incumbents Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes losing to their Republican candidates pretty handily. For a county with a population of approximately 14,500, there has been plenty of political drama over the last four or five years. 

In 2018, a federal judge decided that racially gerrymandered districts illegally minimized the voices of Navajo voters, who make up the majority of the population living in San Juan County. Both Grayeyes and Maryboy won elections that year and flipped the county commission of three members to Democratic control. Just a few months into their four-year term, they were receiving criticism for “running the county via resolution” and for their cozy relationship with Colorado-based attorney Steven Boos.

Earlier this year, both Grayeyes and Maryboy were taken to task by 7th District Court Judge Don Torgerson for refusing to appoint someone to the vacant county attorney position. They were chastised for trying to get around the legal process that was already in statute, and “acted not in the best interest of San Juan County, but they acted clearly in their personal interest for both partisan and personal gain.” Even though there were four qualified candidates who put their names forward, Greyeyes and Maryboy voted to continue to seek additional candidates. After Torgeson ordered them to stop looking for other candidates, they appointed Brittney Ivins after introducing a fiery resolution that began “WHEREAS, San Juan County has a long history of violating the civil rights of its Native American citizens” and then listing a long list of grievances.

Then, just last week, KUTV reporter Daniel Woodruff reported that Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson is ordering a legislative audit after reviewing “hundreds of pages” of emails that allegedly show numerous potential violations of Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act. Grayeyes and Maryboy have allegedly continued their close relationship with Boos, on the board of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and a paralegal for Boos, Liz Thomas. Emails show that there was direct communication directing the commissioners what to do and say in commission meetings. 

Jamie Harvey, the Republican candidate running against Maryboy, currently has 61% of the vote. Silvia Stubbs, a longtime resident and teacher in San Juan County, has 54% of the vote in her race against commission chairman Grayeyes. 

I’ll be refreshing the state election website every day at 5 p.m. to see the latest!

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy.