SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, faces some tall competition for re-election: 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley — a Republican who played basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Nets, the Dallas Mavericks and the BYU Cougars.
"I had a lot of friends and people in the Legislature encourage me to run," said Bradley, a surprise candidate who filed just before the deadline Friday afternoon.
"This is something that I have thought about for a long time. But I had to be in the state for three years to qualify. Because I have been out of the state playing basketball, I only recently qualified," said Bradley, who now lives in Murray. "I've always been interested in politics, and I would like to make a difference in people's lives."
Others in that legislative race are Republican Raymond J. Poole and Libertarian Erin M. Partridge.
Bradley's entry may have been the biggest surprise, no pun intended, as the deadline for filing for political office hit Friday. But some other smaller surprises occurred — including that filing deadline day essentially became election day for four lucky state legislators who are running unopposed. They will win unless write-in opposition arises.
Those lucky lawmakers — all Republican House members — are Reps. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan; Brad Last, R-Hurricane; Mike Noel, R-Kanab; and Kraig Powell, R-Heber.
Another minor surprise is that Dell "Superdell" Schanze is running again — this time seeking the GOP nomination for governor against incumbent Gary Herbert and Republican Richard Martin.
Another minor surprise may be just how much opposition three-term U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, attracted. Ten people filed against him, including seven Republicans (who say Bennett is not conservative enough), two Democrats and one Constitution Party member.
The Republicans, besides Bennett, include four who have been campaigning actively: entrepreneur Tim Bridgewater, former congressman Merrill Cook, businesswoman Cherilyn Eagar and attorney Mike Lee. Other late-filing Republicans are David Y. Chiu, Jeremy Friedbaum and Leonard J. Fabio.
Democrats Sam Granato and Christopher Stout and Constitution Party candidate Scott N. Bradley also filed for the Senate race.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, also attracted plenty of opposition — seven candidates filed against him. That included Democrat Claudia Wright, Republicans Morgan Philpot and Neil Walter, Constitution Party candidate Randall Hinton and independents Dave Glissmeyer and Wayne L. Hill.
In the Legislature, all 15 state senators who face elections this year decided to run again. But nine of 74 current incumbent House members chose not to run — seven Republicans and two Democrats.
The nine not running again are Doug Aagard, R-Kaysville; Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful; Stephen Clark, R-Provo; Lori Fowlke, R-Orem; Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden; Fred Hunsaker, R-Logan; Chris Johnson, D-Salt Lake; Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake; and Brent Wallis, R-Ogden.
Also, former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn resigned last week and did not file to run again after disclosing that 25 years earlier he went nude hot-tubbing with a 15-year-old. Five other Republicans filed for his seat, even though Garn had resigned only a week before the filing deadline.
In short, 100 percent of state senators chose to seek reelection, as did 88 percent of House members.
Deseret News research has shown that between 2000 and 2008, state lawmakers had a re-election rate of 90.5 percent. Two-thirds of the defeats that did occur came in conventions or primaries against fellow members of their own party — meaning once a party wins a seat, it tends to hang on to it for years.
One potentially tight race to watch is a rematch between Rep. Trisha Beck, D-Sandy, and the man she beat two years ago, former Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Sandy (who also faces GOP competition from Mike Carey). Beck won 51 percent to 49 percent two years ago to regain from Christensen the seat she had held previously.
Among the members who chose to leave, Riesen, a former TV news anchor and star of furniture TV ads, said he is quitting to spend more time with his family.
"I've been thinking about it for a month or so," he said Friday. "I just decided I needed to get my life back and spend more time with my wife and grandkids."
Gibson may be retiring from the Legislature, but he has decided to run for the Weber County Commission instead.
"I decided it was time to serve a little closer to home," he said. "I'm hoping I can make a bigger difference to the everyday lives of those who live in my community."
Gibson added that he never intended to serve forever in the Legislature.
"One of the biggest problems, I think, is that some people get a seat and think they own it. It's much better to have people come in, make a difference and move on," he said. A list of all candidates who filed for state races and major county races is available at the related links above.
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