Republicans line up to replace state senator tapped for spot in new Cox administration

Former House member and American Fork City Council member among hopefuls.

(Evan Cobb | The Daily Herald file photo via AP) In this June 26, 2018, file photo, then-Rep. Mike Kennedy is surrounded by supporters in Lehi during the Republican primary in which he run against Mitt Romney, who won the U.S. Senate seat of former Sen. Orrin Hatch. Kennedy is now among seven hopefuls seeking the seat of state Sen. Dan Hemmert, who will leave the Legislature to join the new administration of Gov.-elect Spencer Cox.

Seven Republicans are in the running to replace Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, in the Utah Senate when he leaves in January to join Gov.-elect Spencer Cox’s administration.

The contenders for the soon-to-be vacant Senate District 14 seat include former Rep. Mike Kennedy, a former U.S. Senate candidate who lost to Mitt Romney in the 2018 GOP primary.

While Kennedy is the only former legislator in the mix, there are other hopefuls who have close ties to Utah’s political community.

Staci Carroll, a member of the American Fork City Council, is the daughter of former Senate President John Valentine, who currently serves as chairman of the Utah State Tax Commission.

David Shallenberger challenged Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, for the GOP nomination this year, losing the Republican primary by just 43 votes.

Jeanette Bennett, the publisher of Utah Valley Magazine, was a member of Gov.-elect Spencer Cox’s “kitchen cabinet” when he was planning his run for governor and was a leader of his “Women for Utah” initiative.

Commercial realtor Jon Anderson is the former brother-in-law of current U.S. Rep. John Curtis.

Other candidates for the seat include Brittany Griffith and John St. Clair.

Republican delegates in the district will elect Hemmert’s replacement on Dec. 29.

Hemmert was elected to a second two-year term as Majority Whip by his colleagues shortly after the Nov. 3 election. With his departure, the contest to fill the unexpected opening in leadership may be over before it has begun.

It is widely expected that Senate Assistant Majority Whip Ann Millner, R-Ogden, will be looking to move up the leadership ladder and take Hemmert’s spot, and may not be challenged.

Meantime, two senators have said they are interested in the Assistant Whip’s spot if Millner moves up — Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo. Bramble previously was Senate Majority Leader from 2004 to 2008. Cullimore is currently in his first term, having first won election in 2018.

No date has been set for the Senate GOP caucus election.

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