In a primary election where races were few and voters scarce — except in counties where new all-by-mail voting boosted turnout — one incumbent legislator was defeated Tuesday night, while three others either won or were enjoying comfortable margins.
Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, lost in final but unofficial results 1,532 to 1,281 to former Rep. Brad Daw after scandals that deposed former Attorney General John Swallow loomed large in that race.
Two years ago, Layton unseated Daw amid a flood of independent attack ads that House investigators say were funded by payday lenders upset by bills that Daw pushed to increase regulation on them. The money was funneled quietly with help from Swallow’s campaign manager Jason Powers.
Layton has said she did not know who was behind the smear campaign, even though House investigators said a Swallow-affiliated political action committee dropped off campaign signs in her driveway from such money. She had said she assumed they came from her campaign.
Daw told voters this year he was an unfair victim of Swallow-assisted payday lenders, and sought redemption — while Layton asserted that Daw was spreading “half- truths and mistruths” about that, and attacked Daw’s record on privacy issues, including his sponsorship of a law that allowed prosecutors to subpoena without a warrant phone, Internet and bank records of people suspected in child porn or exploitation crimes.
Daw said Tuesday, “We feel this was a much fairer fight and are pleased to see the results.” He added that talk about the attorney general’s scandal “got people’s attention, and erased the last campaign.”
Meanwhile in Southern Utah, two other races were affected by another of Utah’s big political controversies of the past year — the Count My Vote initiative that had sought to replace party conventions entirely with primaries.
Sen. Evan Vickers and Rep. John Westwood, both R-Cedar City, won their races after opponents had attacked them for supporting a compromise to keep nominating conventions in place, but allow candidates to avoid them by collecting enough voter signatures to proceed straight to a primary.
Vickers was leading former Sen. Casey Anderson — whom he defeated two years ago — by a huge 5,195-2,543 margin. Westwood beat Iron County Republican Party Chairman Blake Cozzens 1,936-738 in the final but unofficial count.
Anderson came just one vote shy of a 60-percent vote to eliminate Vickers at the Utah Republican Convention this year, where many delegates disliked Vickers’ compromise with Count My Vote that would weaken their role.
Two years ago, Anderson also was ahead of Vickers at the convention, but lost the primary. Vickers raised 11 times more money than Anderson this year, with fellow legislators and other politicians donating heavily to him.
“It’s pretty gratifying to know that when people have a chance to vote, they show their true colors,” Vickers said Tuesday as he enjoyed his comfortable margin. “It’s gratifying to know they didn’t agree with the state delegates.”
Vickers is unopposed in the final election. Westwood faces Libertarian candidate Barry Short.
Meanwhile, recently appointed Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, beat Dan Deuel 1,022-766 in complete but unofficial returns in House District 7. He now faces Democrat Camille Neider and Libertarian Roger Condie.
In a Republican race in Senate District 2 in Salt Lake City, Jacquie Nielsen beat George Chapman, 959-647 in the final count. She will take on Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis in the final election.
In a Republican race to help determine who will replace retiring Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, in House District 19, Raymond Ward beat Chet Loftis 2,525 to 2,272 with all votes counted. However, Davis County is using a mostly ballot-by-mail system, so more votes are expected in coming days.
Ward now faces Democrat Daniel Donahue and Independent American candidate Eli Cawley in the final.
In a Democratic primary in House District 38 in Kearns, Chrystal Butterfield defeated Elias McGraw 159-80. She will face Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, in the final.
With only seven legislative primaries statewide — plus a smattering of county and school board races — voter turnout was low, with some counties reporting only a 6 to 7 percent turnout. An exception was in Davis County, which for the first time was attempting to do most voting by mail. It had a 16 percent turnout.
Brian McKenzie, election manager for Davis County, said turnout was comparable to a hotly contested primary in 2010, featuring many races including one between now-Sen. Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater.
He said his county mailed sent 90,000 ballots to registered voters May 23, and many returned them shortly afterward. Even before election day, he said about 22,000 ballots had been returned.
Six other counties also were conducting voting mostly by mail: Beaver, Duchesne, Garfield, Grand, San Juan and Sevier.