SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, announced Thursday she is withdrawing from her re-election race and resigning from the state Senate effective June 1 due to what she described as recent medical issues.
"This was not an easy decision, but due to recent medical issues I will not be able to give my full attention to representing the citizens of Utah Senate District 15," Dayton said in a statement.
Dayton, who said she was sad and "tearful about leaving the Legislature," did not disclose any details.
In her statement, she noted her 22 years of service in the Legislature is the longest tenure in the state's history for a female lawmaker. Dayton was first elected to the House in 1996 and the Senate in 2006.
It will be up to the Utah County Republican Party to nominate a replacement for Dayton for the remaining seven months of her four-year term. Gov. Gary Herbert will make the appointment.
Utah GOP Chairman Rob Craig said in a statement Thursday that although he was "saddened by this unexpected news, I will wait until I speak personally with the senator before giving any further comments."
With Dayton's exit from the race there are four candidates running to represent District 15: Republicans Keith Grover and Emily Ellsworth, United Utah Party candidate Lee Houghton and Independent American Party candidate Tommy Williams.
Grover currently represents District 61 in the Utah House. He said he was surprised by Dayton's announcement and had expected a "very civil interaction" with Dayton on the campaign trail.
Dayton, who ran for Congress last year when former Rep. Jason Chaffetz's unexpected resignation created a vacancy, called herself "a strong believer in meritocracy."5 comments on this story
She said she believes "gender does not qualify — nor disqualify — a person for public office. I feel confident the voters of Senate District 15 will elect the person who will best continue to represent our strong conservative values."
Her focus as a candidate and in office, Dayton said, has been supporting the Constitution "and maintaining the family as the fundamental unit of society. I am grateful to have stood alongside colleagues and conservatives throughout the state for less government and more individual responsibility."