The state had at least one exciting primary race Tuesday: a tug-of-war between St. George and Cedar City Republicans over who should replace retiring Sen. Ivan Matheson, R-Cedar City.
Cedar City and its favorite son, Dixie L. Leavitt, won. The former longtime senator and one-time gubernatorial candidate beat St. George businessman Jim Eardley in a race that attracted 1,090 more voters than the Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District, which covers a much more vast area. Iron County even had a whopping 63 percent voter turnout, Leavitt said.
The race had such interest because it was essentially a final election. Leavitt will virtually automatically return to the Senate because no Democrat filed to run in the general election on Nov. 8.
In other Senate primaries around the state, incumbent Sen. Dix H. McMullin, R-South Jordan, breezed to a 2-1 win in District 5; political newcomer Lane Beattie beat Rep. Jack Redd, R-Bountiful, in Senate District 23 in Davis County; and newcomer Al Richardson beat former Democratic Rep. Elgin S. Hokanson in District 8 in Salt Lake County.
Also of note, Sen. Rex Black, D-Rose Park, ran uncontested because his opponent, Robert E. Gallegos, dropped out of the race on Friday. But that was too late to take his name off the ballot. So the resulting voting showed Black won with 73 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from the Utah Election Service. Black will face Republican Betty Bates and Libertarian George T. Mattena in the general election.
None of the races attracted as much interest as the one in District 29, which covers Washington, Garfield, Iron and Kane counties.
Leavitt said: "My opponent was using the idea that the senator here ought to be from Washington County because of its size. My approach was that we needed the most effective representation we can get. And with my past legislative experience, I feel I can become effective immediately. Philosophically on the other issues, I felt we were pretty close."
Leavitt said both campaigns had a massive get-out-the-vote campaign using door-to-door pleas that resulted in the high voter turnout. "My opponent won big in Washington County, but we won the other three counties by enough to make up the difference."
Both candidates had campaigned since February. "And it has been very expensive," Leavitt said. He was a state senator from 1964 to 1976, when he ran unsuccessfully for governor. Leavitt also served as Senate majority leader.
He said he is looking forward to returning to the Senate. "I'm pleased to be given the opportunity to serve, and it will be exciting to become involved again."
In District 5, McMullin - the incumbent - rolled to a 66 percent-to-34 percent win over Brent C. Richards, a Riverton sales consultant. McMullin will face Democrat Robert E. Wood of West Jordan in the final election.
McMullin has served 12 years in the Legislature. His district includes parts of Sandy, West Jordan, Riverton, South Jordan, Bluffdale and Draper.
In District 23, Beattie won a close race against Redd by a 51.7 percent-to-48.3 percent margin to decide who the Republican nominee would be to replace Sen. Jack Bangerter, who is retiring. The district includes most of Bountiful, Woods Cross, North Salt Lake and most of West Bountiful.
Beattie will face Democrat Nelda Bishop, Libertarian Bill Husbands and American Party candidate Tim S. Seeley in the general election.
Beattie had almost avoided the primary race during the Davis County Republican convention. In a five-man race then, he received 67 percent of the votes - just 3 percentage points short of the 70 percent needed to avoid a primary. Redd chose not to seek re-election to his Bountiful House District 20 to try to move up to the Senate.
In District 8, Richardson won the Democratic primary against former six-year state legislator Hokanson by 67 percent to 33 percent. Richardson, food director at Salt Lake Community College, will face longtime incumbent Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Murray, in the final election.
District 8 includes Midvale, Cottonwood Heights, Union and Murray south of 59th South.