Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In many Utah legislative races, the election is already over
Politics » There are no challengers for incumbents in one of every 11 contests.
First Published Mar 25 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 25 2014 07:45 pm

In one of every 11 races for the Utah Legislature this year, the election is over before it begins.

As the candidate-filing period closed for this year’s 89 legislative races, eight incumbents — two Democrats and six Republicans — emerged with no challengers.

At a glance

Legislators running unopposed

» Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City.

» Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City.

» Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan.

» Rep. Ed Redd, R-Logan.

» Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

» Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem.

» Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton.

» Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Two more House races are nearly over, with Republican incumbents facing challengers only from long-shot third parties.

And in three other contests, Republicans are sure to win — as only Republicans are running.

The lack of interparty competition in so many races is concerning to some observers at the same time it provides a boost to several lawmakers who now don’t have to lift a finger to keep their seats, although they say they’ll campaign anyway to stay in touch with constituents.

Jim Dabakis, who resigned as Utah Democratic Party chairman on Monday, acknowledges that his party is "way down from where we were in 2012" in attracting candidates. Democrats did not field candidates in 12 of the 89 legislative races this year (all 75 House seats are up for election, as are about half the 29 state Senate seats).

‘Unhealthy’ » "We really would like a candidate to run in every race because it is unseemly for democracy to have candidates with no opposition, no exchange of ideas. It’s unhealthy," Dabakis said.

But he said the party also is faced with a balancing act: targeting races where it has a chance, and not wasting money and energy where it does not. He blames redistricting by the GOP-controlled Legislature for creating safe districts for both parties, leaving just a few swing districts to attract challengers with a competitive chance.

"This is caused by gerrymandering. Those districts are created by legislators who will run in them," Dabakis said. "You have legislators who are picking their districts rather than people who are picking their representatives," and he argues the system should be turned over to an independent commission.

story continues below
story continues below

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, is one of the incumbents who is unopposed. "It never hurts to be a Republican in Cache County," he jokes, but he still disagrees with Dabakis’s putting the blame on Republican redistricting.

"I really don’t buy the idea that there was a huge nefarious scheme to make a tremendous advantage for Republicans," he said. "It would be naïve to say that politics had nothing to do with it … But I saw their work, I saw the process, I saw their deliberation and they did the very best they could" to be fair.

He says Utah’s demographics — with Republicans having huge majorities in many places — makes it hard not to create numerous safe seats.

Surprised » Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, agrees to a point. One of two Democrats running unopposed, King acknowledged that "I was surprised, but I can’t tell you I was distressed" at learning that he has no challenger.

He believes that redistricting did create many safe seats throughout the state. But, he adds, "I think there are some seats that would be safe no matter what you did with redistricting in both Salt Lake County for Democrats and in Utah County, for example, for Republicans."

Only two of the unopposed legislators — Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab — say they have ever experienced such a free pass to re-election.

"I still have to campaign. Much of my district is new after reapportionment, and I have a lot of people who don’t know who I am," Davis said. "The great thing about campaigns is it puts you in touch with the people."

Noel said even without an opponent, "It’s still the same job" to get elected. "I will be going to seven county conventions and meeting delegates throughout my district" and attending meeting of city councils and school districts throughout his large rural district.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, also promised to hit the campaign trail although he’s unopposed.

"I will still be reaching out to delegates to let them know who I am."

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.