Utah Democrats swapped one Karen for another on Saturday, electing state Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Salt Lake City, to replace former Sen. Karen Mayne — who retired suddenly from the Utah Legislature after serving for 15 years, citing health reasons.
Kwan bested seven other candidates hoping to succeed Mayne in representing Salt Lake County’s west side. During last year’s legislative session, Mayne was diagnosed with cancer after breaking her shoulder.
Kwan secured the vote of 30 out of 52 delegates in Senate District 12 to win. Democrats make up 23.5% of the approximately 40,000 registered voters in the district, according to political data firm L2.
“My excitement is tempered by the circumstances that led me to this new role. I wish Karen Mayne all the best for a full and speedy recovery,” Kwan told The Salt Lake Tribune in a text, while also thanking the delegates and candidates who serve on the west side.
“I have big shoes to fill and am grateful to have been mentored by the best senator in the state,” she added.
Kwan was first elected to the Utah Legislature in 2016 and was reelected to a fourth term last November. She will hold the senate seat until 2024 and faces a special election to fill out the remaining two years of Mayne’s four-year term.
Her move to the Senate means another legislative vacancy, and Democratic delegates in House District 31 will elect a replacement for her. Democratic party rules say the earliest that election could occur is after the second week of the 2023 Legislature.
“I have known Senator-elect Karen Kwan since she began her career of legislative service in the Utah House of Representatives in 2017. The Senate Democrats eagerly welcome her policy expertise and thorough commitment to representing her constituents,” Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla said in a statement.
“Her effectiveness in the Legislature and eye for strategic partnerships to usher meaningful policy to support all Utahns will be a crucial addition to the Senate Minority Caucus,” Escamilla said.
On Saturday, Utah County Republicans elected Tyler Clancy to replace Adam Robertson, who resigned in December to focus on his growing drone technology company. Clancy, a 25-year-old Provo Police officer, defeated four other candidates. Clancy, who now will represent House District 60, will be the youngest member of the Utah Legislature.
“Nothing like getting elected 3 days before the session,” Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson wrote on Twitter of Clancey’s win. “Get ready to work.”
In January, Utah Republicans elected Thomas Peterson to replace Joel Ferry, who resigned after winning November’s election in House District 1. Ferry also resigned from his legislative seat last year after Gov. Spencer Cox named him to head up the Utah Department of Natural Resources after it was too late for the party to replace him as their nominee.
Utah Democrats unsuccessfully sued to force him off the ballot, arguing he had no intention of serving if elected. Republican delegates also picked Peterson last September to replace Ferry following his first resignation.
Correction • This story has been corrected to identify Rep. Karen Kwan’s former Utah House district.