Utah Legislative Incumbents Fare Well, With Two Exceptions, In Salt Lake And
Utah County Conventions
by Lisa Riley Roche and Dennis Romboy
April 14, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY — Incumbent state lawmakers fared well Saturday at Salt Lake and Utah county political conventions, with two exceptions.
Two state House members, Rep. Merilyn Newbold, R-South Jordan, and Rep. Brian Doughty, D-Salt Lake, were eliminated by their competitors at their Salt Lake County party conventions.
What that might mean for incumbents in statewide and federal races next week is anyone's guess. Two years ago, Republicans ousted longtime U. S. Sen. Bob Bennett at their state convention while Democrats forced Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, into a primary.
"The delegates I've come across were much more moderate in their views. Much less passion and emotion," said Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, one of the incumbents who easily won enough support to avoid a primary.
Osmond said delegates were focused on accomplishments rather than fiery speeches, something that should favor incumbents. But he said he wasn't sure that would be the case in some of the big statewide GOP races.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, agreed.
"In a state race, it may be a little bit different. We'll see what happens," Dee said, agreeing that the Republican delegates are more moderate this cycle. "I think it's going to be closer than people might think."
Utah County Republican Party Chairman David Acheson said there was a different tone to the convention this year compared to 2010.
"I do think I noticed a more congenial atmosphere, less contention," he said.
But he wouldn't speculate whether that would carry to the state GOP convention. "We've delegates in our county who are motivated and energized," Acheson said.
What was anticipated to be a tough Utah Senate race between longtime Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, turned into a runaway.
Valentine easily bested Frank with 65 percent of the delegate vote at the Utah County Republican Party convention.
"They were willing to go with experience and a vision of where we need to go in the future," Valentine said. "I think the future of Utah is very bright."
A veteran of 10 years in the House and 14 in the Senate, Valentine, who doesn't have a Democratic opponent, wouldn’t say whether this would be his last term.
"I'm not going to make an announcement about it," he said.
Not all incumbents made it through the conventions without having to face a primary.
In Utah County, Dana Layton, a video production and event manager, forced a GOP primary runoff with Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. And Rep. Neil Hendrickson, D-West Valley, faces Liz Muniz in the Democratic primary.
Newbold, who has served 12 years in the Legislature, said she didn't know why she lost to Rich Cunningham, who captured 68 percent of the delegate vote. "Ask the delegates," she said after her defeat.
One of the delegates who supported Newbold, Michelle Seegmiller, said she'd been told it was time for a change in the district.
"I just felt like she was conservative. I'm sad to see her go," Seegmiller said.
Doughty, the only openly gay member of the Legislature, was appointed last year to fill a vacancy. After redistricting, both he and House Minority Leader David Litvack were in the same district in Salt Lake City.
itvack is not seeking reelection.
But delegates decided by a 72-28 percent margin that Angela Romero will be on the ballot as the district's Democratic candidate.