Legislative races: GOP maintains control of Utah House, Senate

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The Republican Party held its majority in the Utah Legislature on Tuesday, expanding its control of both chambers.

Democrats lost two seats in the Senate and another two seats in the House. 

"We're benefiting from that tsunami wave that (presidential candidate Mitt) Romney creates, but we also have great candidates, and we're really honored that people are trusting Republicans again," said Thomas Wright, GOP state chairman.

After record turnout at state caucuses earlier this year, several incumbent far-right GOP lawmakers faced stiff primary competition and fell to moderate challengers. Other seats were vacated by candidates retiring or seeking higher office, leaving 20 open seats in the Utah Legislature.

In the Senate, Republican Deidre Henderson ran unopposed and picked up the District 7 seat held by Democrat Ross Romero, who vacated the position for an unsuccessful bid for Salt Lake County mayor. Another Senate seat vacated by retiring Karen Morgan, D-Salt Lake City, was picked up by Republican Brian Shiozawa, giving the GOP a 24-5 majority in the Senate.

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, was the only Democrat senatorial candidate to win election, retaining her seat against Republican challenger Chelsea Woodruff with 55 percent of the vote. 

A number of incumbent candidates found themselves displaced due to recent redistricting, including in House District 30, where Democrat Janice Fisher and Republican Fred Cox faced each other. Fisher held the seat for the Democrats, leading Cox 52 percent to 47 percent.

In the House of Representatives, Democratic incumbent Christine Watkins fell to Republican Jerry Anderson by less than three percentage points. Another Democratic seat fell to the Republicans in House District 33, with Craig Hall beating Liz Muniz 51 percent to 48 percent.

Utah Republicans now hold a 60-15 majority in the Utah House.

In House District 37, Democratic incumbent Carol Spackman Moss narrowly edged out Republican challenger Anne-Marie Lampropoulos after weeks of television, mail and radio ads typical of statewide campaigns. Moss carried 52 percent of the vote.

Lampropoulos spent more than double the amount of her opponent during the general election, $54,000 compared with Moss' $23,000, according to the most recent campaign finance information.

In Senate District 8, Democratic candidate Josie Valdez failed to claim the seat vacated Morgan, instead falling to Shiozawa by 13 percentage points. If elected, Valdez would have joined her husband, Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, who currently serves in the Utah House.

With the exception of Angela Romero's win in House District 26, all open Legislative seats around the state saw Republican victories. Five candidates in the Senate and eight candidates in the House, all Republicans, ran unopposed.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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