Ten Utah Races To Watch On Primary Night

1317336Early voting in the Utah Primary ends today, and the Primary Election will be on Tuesday, June 24. With no statewide or federal offices grabbing headlines, it might be easy to forget that there’s a primary at all.

But there is, and here’s ten races that you should keep your eyes on. 

Rep. Dana Layton of the Utah House of Representatives.
Dana Layton

1. House 60: Dana Layton (incumb) v. Brad Daw

An incumbent of one term, Layton took out Daw in 2012 in the wake of false accusations from a shadowy Jason Powers organized group. Claiming Daw supported Obamacare (he does not), the mailers were devastating in the conservative district. Two years later, Powers is in disgrace and Daw has been vindicated by the John Swallow investigation’s revelations into the shadow group’s activities, and Daw wants his seat back.

Brad Daw, former member of the Utah House.
Brad Daw

The convention vote between Layton and Daw was 64-50 for Daw, with Daw and his wife coming out swinging against Layton for capitalizing on the Powers’ malfeasance.  Despite an offer from a former county party chair to host a debate, the campaigns have not been able to agree on a neutral moderator or time for the debate.

[UPDATE] The Salt Lake Tribune did a piece on this race today.

2. House 72: John R. Westwood (incumb) v. Blake Cozzens

Cozzens is an influential Tea Party leader and Republican Party Chair in Iron County, and Westwood is a one term-incumbent, taking office in January of 2013. Cozzens created some controversy when he declined to resign as party chair before the convention, even drawing a letter from Utah Republican Party Chair James Evans and criticism from across the state.

During the Primary cycle, he’s drawn heat for his campaign messaging (Senator Todd Weiler said of one advert: “The most deceptive ad in #utpol history?”), while he’s rallied libertarians (little ‘l’) such as Connor Boyack to his support.

3. Salt Lake County Assessor: Kevin Jacobs (incumb) v. Jake Parkinson

It’s often said that the intraparty contests are the most brutal, and the race for the Republican nomination for Salt Lake County Assessor seems to prove the rule.  Kevin Jacobs was appointed last year to serve out the remainder of Lee Gardner’s term after beating out Jake Parkinson for Republican delegate votes. In a rematch this year, Parkinson beat Jacobs handily at the convention by presenting a message of improved services and efficiency over Jacobs’ message of 25 years in the Assessor’s office, even though public records show that Jacobs received his assessors’ license for the first time only last year.

And the mud: surrogates for Jacobs have been dirty, taking every opportunity to blast Parkinson for reasons that are strained and on more than one occasion false. For his part, Parkinson has walked back from attacks of his own on Jacobs, sticking to contrasting his approach of improving services over Jacobs of continuing the status quo.

4. Salt Lake County Auditor: Jeff Hatch v. Chris Stout

First elected Salt Lake County auditor in 2006, Hatch lost his reelection in  2010 to a Republican. Stout–a former candidate for US Senate (against Mike Lee) and State Treasurer (against Richard Ellis)–is more popular with Democratic Party insiders. With the Republican incumbent out at convention, this is a wide open race in the general, and a Democrat could win it (and there are those who wonder if the candidate on the Republican side is a Democrat, too). Hatch has criticized Stout for lacking sufficient experience, but Stout has outspent Hatch for the primary and Hatch has out raised and outspent Stout in the race.

If Stout loses, he says it’ll probably be his last race.

5. Utah County District Attorney: Jeffery R.  Buhman (incumb) v. Ben Stanley

For a race with little attention outside of the county, there has been a surprising amount of negative campaigning in this race. Buhman has been in office since 2007, while Stanley (magna cum laude and Order of the Coif from the J. Reuben Clark Law School) has only been a member of the Utah Bar since 2012, though it appears that he practiced in Chicago prior to that.

The main bone of contention in the race is that Buhman’s office has tried too hard to prosecute suspects, while Buhman points out that Stanley only has only tried one case in court.  Stanley doesn’t have the support of law enforcement or legal eagles, which depending on your perspective, is either good or bad

6. Davis County Commissioner: Bret Milburn (incumb) v. Brian Muir

Muir surprised everyone by pushing Milburn to a primary, but most believe that Milburn will pull out a win on Tuesday.

7. Utah County Commissioner: Bill Lee v. Lorne W. Grierson

Lee is a former Deputy State Director for Senator Mike Lee and is running a race focused on the Constitution and a proper role of government. He’s been endorsed by Representative Jake Anderegg, Senator Mark Madsen and…a shlew of county commissioners from other counties.

Canadian by birth, Grierson became a U.S. citizen in 2008, though he’s lived in the U.S. for forty years. While his endorsements hail mostly from the private sector, he has been endorsed by former Utah County Republican Chair David Acheson.

8. House 19: Raymond Ward v. Chet Loftis

Voters in House 19 get to pick between a lawyer and a doctor.  With Rep. Jim Nielson stepping down at the end of his term, the race for House 17 is wide open, but is likely to go to the winner of the Republican Primary. Both candidates appear to be campaigning hard, with signs for each prolific across the district.

Loftis is Managing Director of the Public Employee Health Plan (PEHP), which some have argued would create a conflict of interest for him if he is elected, allowing him to lobby, vote and work on behalf of PEHP from within the legislature. However, he has the endorsement of Nielson, former Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell, Dan Liljenquist, and Dave Clark and is generally seen by many in the legislature as extremely competent.

Ward, who falls just to the left of Ward on the political spectrum, is a doctor, and has the endorsement of Sheryl Allen, Kim Burningham, David Irvine, and Richard Siddoway.

9. House 7: Justin L. Fawson v. Dan Deuel

While technically the incumbent, Fawson has only been in office since April 23, 2014 when he was appointed to fill the term of former state representative Ryan Wilcox, so he probably doesn’t get all the clout and name recognition of an incumbent.

Deuel is a long-time Republican activist and an advocate for father’s rights. Fawson is a veteran and small businessman. Both are conservative.

10. Senate 28: Evan Vickers (incumb) v. Casey Anderson

The race for Senate 28 is a rematch from 2012. Anderson was appointed in 2011 when then-Senator Dennis Stowell passed away, but then lost to Evan Vickers, then a member of the Utah House of Representatives, in the primary. Vickers comes into the race with a financial advantage and the endorsements of Governor Gary Herbert, Congressman Chris Stewart, and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, as well as six other members of the Utah Senate and six members of the Utah House of Representatives from Southern Utah, not to mention mayors of every other major city in the area.


Members of the Hub team contributed information to this post, including: Holly Richardson, John English, Curt Bentley, Karen Peterson, Beau Sorensen, Jesse Harris, and Shon Harris. 

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