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State senate race winner says GOP delegates frustrated with lawmakers

Published: Saturday, April 2 2011 11:44 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Newly elected state senator Aaron Osmond said GOP delegates who passed over two state representatives also seeking the District 10 seat were frustrated with lawmakers.

"There was just general disillusionment with what they saw coming out of the Legislature last session," Osmond said Friday. "They felt that they were not being represented."

Osmond said that was especially true when it came to the controversial HB477, which would have limited access to public records. The bill, since repealed in a special session, has been widely criticized across the political spectrum.

The issue of whether the state's long-standing Government Records Access and Management Act needs to be changed is now in the hands of a working group that includes lawmakers, media and residents.

"I felt strongly we needed to have an open and transparent government. What they had heard and seen of HB477 really concerned them," Osmond said. "It was government protecting government and not being transparent to the people."

Osmond, who is expected to be formally appointed to what will be his first elected office next week by Gov. Gary Herbert, said the anti-incumbent feelings that surfaced over HB477 may not go away anytime soon.

"I feel that the sentiment could carry over. It was strong," Osmond said. "I think it is a risk in future elections."

The governor, who is up for re-election in 2012, said every race is different.

"I don't think there's any message there," Herbert said of the outcome in District 10. "It doesn't matter what piece of legislation is passed, somebody will be opposed to it."

A dozen candidates sought the seat vacated last month on the last day of the legislative session by veteran lawmaker Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. Buttars, who has health problems, had endorsed his daughter, Christie Buttars Giles.

The other high-profile candidates in the running were GOP Reps. Ken Ivory of West Jordan and Merlynn Newbold of South Jordan. Newbold, who faced primary opposition last year, and Giles were knocked out in the first round of voting.

Ivory, a freshman outspoken on constitutional issues, advanced to the second and final round, but lost to Osmond with 31 percent of the delegate votes to Osmond's 69 percent.

Newbold said while delegates had questions about HB477, she did not believe the Legislature's actions or any other specific issue was the determining factor in the race.

"I do know that there were several who were very unhappy with 477," Newbold said. "It was an unusual election, a field of good candidates and a lot of emotion. It was pretty intense."

Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Julie Dole, who is also a District 10 delegate, said she didn't believe the voters in the Thursday evening election were upset with Ivory and Newbold.

"The delegates liked them just fine, but overall, they had to go with who they liked best," Dole said. Still, she said, delegates will be keeping a closer watch on lawmakers in the future.

University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said the delegate election was a chance for Republican delegates to make a statement about the Legislature's actions.

"One of the unfortunate things for the people who had just gone through the session was this was fresh in the delegates' minds," Burbank said. "Depending on what happens with 477, it's possible this could still be a problem."

State GOP Chairman Thomas Wright said there's a lesson for Republican officeholders in the District 10 election.

"It seemed to me like they were in the mood to find somebody new, a fresh face they felt they connected with well," Wright said. "I think all politicians would be very smart in listening to their constituents."

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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