SALT LAKE CITY — A dozen members of the Utah Legislature — several of whom have served more than 20 years — face challengers in next Tuesday’s primary election.
Utah’s longest-serving member of the Legislature is among them.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, has held a seat in the Legislature nearly 40 years, first being elected to the House in 1980. He faces a challenge from Republican businessman Chris Wilson — one of the few opponents Hillyard has faced in District 25 since he began his Senate service in 1985.
Hillyard said he thinks the lack of opposition over the years indicates people believe he’s done a good job. He said that between electing a new governor and the budgetary issues brought on by COVID-19, the upcoming election is an especially crucial one. He says he is well-suited to responding to economic issues because of his experience working on the state’s budgets.
Wilson believes it is time for a fresh perspective at the Capitol. He pointed to the Legislature’s sweeping tax reform bill from late last year and the referendum effort to repeal it as an example, describing it as “rushed” and “out of touch” with the communities’ desires. Hillyard co-chaired the task force that crafted the reform plan and sponsored the bill.
Hillyard said opponents misunderstood the tax reform plan, as the increased sales tax was offset with food tax credit and other tax breaks. Regardless, he said, his top priority has changed with the onset of COVID-19.
The most serious issue facing the state is the “free fall of our revenue with COVID-19,” he said, and he counts many supporters at the Capitol.
“That’s what triggered me to run again,” Hillyard said. “I have good support from my fellow legislators who want me to be there.”
Wilson, who said he believes his experience as a businessman will help grow the economy and get people back to work, believes in term limits. He committed that should he be elected, he wouldn’t serve more than three terms.
“I just think we constantly need fresh eyes, fresh ideas and a fresh perspective,” Wilson said, pointing out he was in high school when Hillyard was elected.
The primary election will be unlike any that has preceded it. Voting will be conducted entirely by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. State lawmakers passed legislation during the April special session doing away with polling places, early voting and same-day voter registration.
Other incumbents in runoffs
In Salt Lake County, incumbent Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, is facing former state lawmaker Rich Cunningham in a high-profile race for Senate District 10.
Fillmore won 65.7% of the delegate vote in April’s GOP convention, but Cunningham gathered the required 2,000 signatures under SB54, qualifying for the primary ballot regardless of the convention vote.
This is not their first face-off. Cunningham ran and lost against Fillmore in 2016.
Senate District 6
Incumbent Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, who has spent 23 years in the Legislature is facing business owner Karen Hyatt after he won 53.7% of the convention vote, not a high enough percentage to automatically qualify as the Republican candidate for the seat.
Salt Lake County GOP bylaws dictate that candidates who win more than 60% of delegate support are the automatic party nominee unless an opponent collects enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
Senate District 16
Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, who has represented the district just shy of two decades, is facing former Republican Party state and county delegate Sylvia Andrew in another high-profile Senate race. Bramble defeated the Provo Republican with 58.3% of delegate votes during convention voting.
House District 3
Incumbent Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, is facing Logan resident and businessman Mike Petersen.
House District 14
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, is facing public schoolteacher Jennifer Hogge.
House District 17
Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, who was appointed to the Legislature in 2011, faces a primary challenge against LeAnn Wood, a Kaysville resident with experience on the Utah PTA and other education committees.
House District 47
Incumbent Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, is facing Nathan Brown after capturing 54.1% of the convention vote.
House District 48
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, is also facing a primary challenge from attorney and engineer David Shallenberger. Both candidates reached the signature threshold although Shallenberger edged the Republican incumbent in delegate votes, 57.7% to 42.3%.
House District 56
Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, lost to conservative activist Merrilee Boyack in April’s convention voting, however, Christofferson is still appearing on the primary ballot as he qualified through signature gathering.
House District 61
Incumbent Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, is facing Kenneth Grover, former principal of Innovations Early College High School, in the primary race after he earned a spot on the GOP primary ballot by gathering signatures.
House District 71
Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, is being challenged by businessman Willie Billings.
Other races on the primary ballot
There are also a handful of races between two entirely new candidates.
Senate District 19
Republicans John Johnson, a Utah State University data analytics professor, and business owner Johnny Ferry are squaring off in the primary for a chance to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden. Whoever wins will face Summit County Democrat Katy Owens in the November election.
House District 33
Salt Lake County Democrats Fatima Dirie and Ofa Matagi are facing each over for the opportunity to run for the House District 33 seat in November. The winner will face Republican incumbent Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, in the general election.
House District 42
Attorney Jordan Teuscher and former Utah Republican Party Vice Chairman Aaron Starks are competing to represent House District 42 after winning 57.5% and 42.5% of the vote in convention, respectively. The candidates are running for the seat currently held by Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who is running for the 4th Congressional District nomination.
House District 54
Republican candidates Mike Kohler and Randy Favero are competing to replace Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, who did not run for reelection.
House District 58
Republicans Steve Lund and Clinton Painter are vying for the party nomination.
House District 66
Republican candidates Jefferson Burton, a former Utah National Guard commander and current leader of the Department of Health’s COVID-19 efforts, is seeking the nomination against Woodland Hills City Council member Kari Malkovich.
Utah voters can check their registration info and find out more about the upcoming election at vote.utah.gov.