Karen Mayne, a former Utah Senate minority leader, resigns due to health reasons

The Salt Lake City Democratic state senator, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, said her health took an “unexpected turn” after her November reelection.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, in the Senate, in February 2021.

State Sen. Karen Mayne, a Salt Lake City Democrat and former minority leader, submitted her letter of resignation Wednesday due to health reasons, according to a news release from the Utah Senate. Last year, Mayne was diagnosed with cancer, which she discovered when she broke her shoulder.

In a resignation letter shared by the Utah Senate, Mayne wrote that since she won reelection in November, “my health has taken an unexpected turn, and the constituents of District 12 deserve full-time representation at the beginning of the legislative session on January 17th, 2023.”

Mayne was first appointed to the Senate in 2007 to replace her late husband, Ed Mayne, who first won his seat in 1994. Karen was elected to fill out the remaining two years of Ed’s term in 2008. She then won her first full, four-year term in 2010. Combined, the Maynes have been in elected office for nearly 30 years.

The senator’s resignation will be effective on Jan. 16, one day before the Legislature begins its 2023 general session.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Luz Escamilla called Mayne, “the epitome of what true public service and representation is all about,” in a news release.

“Her dedication to her district and to the people of Utah has been thoughtful, genuine and kind-hearted every step of the way,” Escamilla said.

Senate President Stuart Adams said in the news release that Mayne “has navigated difficult circumstances and been a true champion for her district and the state of Utah.”

Scott Howell, a former state senator who served with Ed Mayne, said Karen would be sorely missed on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

“Her dedication to making life better for everyone in Utah will be deeply missed. She was a bridge builder and one of the best strategists I’ve ever seen on Capitol Hill. Her ability to reach across the aisle is a lesson anyone involved in politics needs to learn,” Howell said.

Mayne wrote in her resignation letter that she appreciated the support from constituents and colleagues, both Republican and Democrat.

“I have additional gratitude for the opportunities to mentor and to collaborate with the many new faces within the public service sphere; these thoughtful and energetic people have taught me as much as I hope that I have taught them, and I look forward to their positive community-minded efforts, for all of us,” the senator wrote. “It has truly been an honor to serve.”

A phone call to Mayne was not immediately returned on Wednesday afternoon.

David Spatafore, a longtime Utah political advisor who has known Mayne for nearly 45 years, told The Salt Lake Tribune the senator has been a strong voice for the county’s west side at the Capitol for many years, and the news of her resignation is saddening.

“Karen Mayne has been that unique person in the minority party, who was able to work with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass meaningful legislation,” Spatafore said Wednesday. “Not very many members of the minority party can do that.”

Spatafore said he’s not entirely surprised to see her resignation, adding, “My heart hurts because she has to resign because of her health situation.”

Other senior Utah political leaders immediately expressed their admiration for Mayne on Wednesday afternoon.

Gov. Spencer Cox called Mayne “a true stateswoman,” in a tweet, adding, “In a hyper-partisan world, I wish everyone could have the opportunity to know and work with Sen. Mayne.”

“She is loved by everyone who has ever worked with her, including me,” Cox said in the tweet.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who served in the Utah Senate with Mayne, said in a tweet, “(Mayne) is a friend and mentor to many and a beloved leader who deserves much thanks for her dedicated public service.”

Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis said a statement that Mayne has long been a powerhouse in the Senate and in the state party.

“She has served the people of her district with integrity and passion for many years, and she has accomplished significant things during her time on Capitol Hill, fighting for the working families of our state every step of the way,” Lewis said. “The loss of Senator Mayne’s leadership in the Senate will be felt deeply, but her legacy of public service will not be forgotten.”

In their own statement Wednesday, the Salt Lake County Democratic Party said it’s deeply saddened by Mayne’s resignation, but grateful for her years of service.

“Her contributions to our party and the people of Utah will not be forgotten,” the party said in a tweet.

Democratic delegates in Salt Lake County will pick a replacement to fill her seat for the next two years. Senate Democrats will need to pick her replacement as minority whip, the second-highest ranking member of their caucus.

Correction, Jan. 4, 4:45 p.m. • This article has been updated to show that Scott Howell served in the Utah Senate with Ed Mayne.