Controversial candidate Kim DelGrosso concedes Utah school board race to incumbent Cindy Davis

With the initial ballots tallied, Davis nabbed 53% of the vote while DelGrosso fell behind.

Kim DelGrosso, a controversial candidate for the state school board who drew attention for speaking against “gender identity stuff,” has conceded after the initial votes tallied from Tuesday’s Republican primary left her lagging behind.

The incumbent in the race, Cindy Davis, took the lead with 53% of the vote. The margin between them is slight, with about 1,500 votes currently putting Davis ahead.

“I’m looking forward to serving the people of our state for another four years,” Davis said Wednesday. “Strong schools make for a stronger community.”

More ballots will be counted Thursday, with updates expected from Salt Lake County and Utah County — District 11, the seat at stake in this Utah State Board of Education election, includes pieces of both counties after redistricting maps were approved.

But it would be hard for DelGrosso to reclaim the lead, having lost so far in Utah County, which has about 2,000 ballots left to process in the race. That area is more conservative and was expected to go strongly to her, as the more far-right candidate.

Davis confirmed Wednesday that DelGrosso called to congratulate the incumbent on the win.

DelGrosso had earlier told The Salt Lake Tribune that she will “remain involved in the fight for our children’s education.” She later added about her concession: “I felt it was appropriate considering today’s total. I wish her the best.”

With that, Davis takes the seat, as there is no Democrat or unaffiliated candidate running for the spot. The Utah State Board of Education races became partisan in 2020.

Davis was first elected in 2018, before that switch. This is her first election running as a Republican.

She currently serves as the co-vice chair of the state school board and works as an education adjunct professor and field supervisor at Utah Valley University. She has previously been a teacher, assistant principal, principal and special education director in K-12 in the state.

During her time on the school board, she has talked often about her role also as a mother. And she has pushed for right-leaning, mainstream approaches to education supported by most conservative Utah voters. She helped the board set up limits to block critical race theory from being taught in the classroom (though there’s no evidence it was) and opposes comprehensive sex education.

DelGrosso has been more far-right in her approach and has gained support from those crowds, including winning the Republican convention nomination with 76% of the vote. But Utah GOP voters overall in the state tend to be more moderate than delegates.

She first caused alarm among some parents and those in the LGBTQ community when she said she was “sickened by the identity gender stuff that’s going on” during an April town hall. She also said she wanted to amplify the viewpoint of current state school board member Natalie Cline, who has drawn her own criticism for similar statements.

Cline was disciplined last year for a social media post that was critical of queer students and has been called out for attacking a teacher on Facebook.

During the town hall, DelGrosso also noted that she is “very, very anti-trans” when it comes to transgender girls in sports. She believes critical race theory “is Marxist, and it is Communist.” And she said she is opposed to schools teaching social-emotional learning, which is supposed to help students understand empathy and respect.

She currently teaches dance to children and is co-owner and artistic director of Center Stage Performing Arts Studios. She is a mother of eight kids.

Campaign finances

DelGrosso raised significantly more than Davis in the race.

As of her last filing, she reported collecting $31,000 this year. A large chunk of that — $6,000 — came in a donation from Education Opportunity for Every Child, a conservative group that supports school choice.

She has also received a contribution from Sen. John Johnson, R-Ogden, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and has pushed for a teacher’s license to be reviewed if they talk about controversial topics. And Carolyn Sharette, executive director at American Preparatory Academy, contributed to her campaign.

Some have asked DelGrosso about those donations and her platforms on her Facebook page, where they have been blocked by the candidate.

DelGrosso was also temporarily barred from campaigning earlier this summer by the lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees elections in Utah. Officials said she failed to fill out a conflict of interest form. DelGrosso retained the lawyer that American Preparatory Academy uses and was reinstated in the race.

On the other side, Davis has raised just over $9,000 this year. Her largest contribution came from Education First Utah, a PAC that says it supports candidates who are “open minded, smart and reasonable in their approach to decision making.” The group backs mostly Republicans.

Other school board primary

The state school board, which oversees public education in Utah, is made up of 15 elected members who serve for four-year terms. Every two years, half of the board is up for election.

Currently, there are 17 candidates running for the eight seats on the ballot this year. Only two races, though, had primaries.

The other race was between Leann Wood and Melanie Mortensen, both Republicans. Wood is currently ahead at 52% of the vote, with a margin of roughly 1,300 ballots in her favor with the initial tallies.

Wood sits on several education councils and committees throughout the state. Mortensen describes herself as “a mother, wife, educator [and] community council member.” Her husband, David Mortensen, is the attorney for American Preparatory Academy that represented DelGrosso.

They’re racing for the District 4 seat. That area covers the north part of Salt Lake County and the south part of Davis County.

There is also no Democrat running in that race, so the winner will be determined by the Republican primary like in District 11 with Davis.

General election races

While that awaits further vote tallies in the primary, these are what the other state school board races will look like for the general election in November. They are listed in alphabetical order by candidate last name.

Two other incumbents, besides Davis, remain in the races: Jennie Earl and Carol Barlow Lear. Two others, Scott Hansen and Janet Cannon, lost during the convention. That means the state school board will see at least five new faces next year.

District 1:

• Curtis Benjamin, Democrat.

• Jennie Earl, Republican, incumbent.

District 2:

• Adi Finsen, Democrat.

• Joseph Kerry, Republican.

District 5:

• Laurel Fetzer, Republican.

• William Fisher, unaffiliated.

• Sarah Reale, Democrat.

District 6:

• Carol Barlow Lear, Democrat, incumbent.

• Melanie Monestere, Republican.

District 8:

• Christina Boggess, Republican.

• Audryn Damron, Democrat.

District 14:

• Emily Green, Republican.

• Richard Jensen, Libertarian.

Thank you so much to our subscribers! Because of your support, The Salt Lake Tribune is able to provide all of this election coverage for free.