Delegates in Republican conventions in Salt Lake and Utah counties ousted one legislator this weekend, while several other incumbents survived close calls.
Eliminated was Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, who served in the Legislature for 14 years and was a central player in fights over medical marijuana and the leading critic of high-interest payday lenders. Meanwhile, five other incumbent legislators were forced into the June 30 primary election.
Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie survived a vigorous challenge from four opponents — after he voted for an unpopular 67% property tax hike, and recently came out as gay in the conservative county.
And Salt Lake County Council Chairman Max Burdick — who did not submit a speech video to delegates in their online convention — came within seven votes of being eliminated, but managed to advance to the primary against Dea Theodore, a homemaker and part-time school worker.
The results were announced Sunday after long hours of delay from glitches in electronic voting conducted over several days during the coronavirus pandemic. Salt Lake County Republicans are still conducting a second round of voting in four close races, and said it will not have results for them until Monday.
The most watched race was over Ivie’s commission seat. He’ll face former 30-year Marine Tom Sakievich in the primary. Sakievich won 55% of the final round of convention voting to 45% by Ivie, and three other candidates were eliminated in earlier ranked-choice voting rounds. Two years ago, Sakievich similarly finished first in the convention against Tanner Ainge for a commission seat, but Ainge won the primary and general elections.
“When you adjust your property tax rate for the first time in 23 years, you’re probably not going to be popular,” Ivie said in an earlier interview about why he attracted four opponents. “A lot of people didn’t understand the state of the county when I took office, the things that had been neglected.”
He campaigned as someone willing to make tough votes to help the county, even if it hurts his reelection chances.
Did coming out as gay also attract opposition? “I would probably say not really,” Ivie said. "The vast majority of people could care less. They’re more interested in what I’m doing as their elected official.”
He also argued in his campaign video that coming out showed his actions are transparent. “That’s why I have shared with you the most challenging and intimate parts of my personal life because you put your trust in me, and it’s imperative that I be open and honest with you,” he said.
Sakievich, in his campaign video, attacked that large tax hike. “I will fight to lower the tax burden on our county citizens. The recent 67% property tax increase is far too excessive.”
In the House races, Daw’s defeat was the biggest surprise in Utah County. His opponent, attorney Nelson Abbott, won 71% of the vote. Any candidate who wins more than 60% of the delegates’ support is the only one who advances from the convention. Those who collected enough signatures in an alternate path to the ballot also appear in the primary, but Daw did not do that.
Payday lenders previously helped defeat Daw, booting him from the Legislature for two years, by anonymously funding attack ads through money laundered with the help of former Attorney General John Swallow, according to House investigations into Swallow’s scandals. Swallow was acquitted in court. Daw called for reforms while he was out of office. That, plus disclosures about Swallow, had helped him regain his seat.
Abbott campaigned by saying on his website, “I’m running to bring a fresh perspective and a new focus in the state Legislature. I will fight against unnecessary tax increases and focus on policies with taxpayers in mind. I will be an active voice for our Second Amendment and the right to life.”
Rep. Kay Christofferson, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, almost suffered Daw’s fate — but he had collected enough signatures to qualify for the primary. In the convention, Christofferson’s opponent, anti-abortion activist Merrilee Boyack, won 62% of the vote. The two will face off in the primary.
Jefferson Burton, the former adjutant general of the Utah National Guard appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert to lead the state’s coronavirus response, was among seven candidates vying for a seat left open when Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, decided to run for the Senate. Burton won 55% of the vote in the final round, and Woodland Hills City Council member Kari Malkovich won 45%. They will compete in the primary election.
Meanwhile, McKell won 72% of the delegate vote — and will advance directly to the Nov. 3 general election — for the Senate seat vacated when Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, became the running mate of gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. (Interestingly, McKell is Cox’s brother-in-law).
In other key Utah County results, Payson City Council member Doug Welton was essentially elected to the Legislature by winning 73% of the vote for a House seat being vacated by Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem. Welton now will be unopposed in the general election.
Although incumbent Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, won 68% of delegate votes, she will face a primary anyway against Kenneth Grover — the identical twin brother of Sen. Keith Grover, R-Provo — who had collected enough signatures to advance.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, was also forced into a primary against David Shallenberger, who is both an engineer and attorney. They both had collected enough signatures to advance no matter what happened in the convention — where Shallenberger won more delegate votes, 58% to 42%.
Burdick — who has served on the Salt Lake County Council for 12 years — won 43% of the vote to 57% for homemaker Theodore. She could have eliminated him by winning seven more votes. In her campaign video, she criticized Burdick for voting to raise taxes last year and said, "We cannot afford to have more tax increases.”
Also forced into a primary is Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, who has served 23 years in the Legislature. He won 54% of the vote against Karen Hyatt.
Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, will wage a rematch with former Rep. Rich Cunningham. Four years ago, their primary election was the most expensive in the state. Both gathered enough signatures to reach the primary this year. In the convention, Fillmore won more delegate votes, 66% to 34%.
Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, is in a close race. He survived a first round of voting along with opponent Nathan Brown by eliminating Stacy Norton. Delegates were voting Sunday in a second round to determine whether anyone might win 60% of the vote and skip the primary. Results are expected on Monday.
Similarly, a second round of voting is proceeding among some well-known politicians for a County Council seat being vacated by Michael Jensen. Advancing to a second round of voting are former South Jordan Mayor Mark Alvord and former Rep. Fred Cox. In the first round, they eliminated West Valley City Council member Karen Lang.