Party conventions hint at possible change in makeup of Legislature

By The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – There could be some changes in the makeup of the Legislature, including a net loss of women representatives and perhaps more diversity in the state Senate, following the results of several county party conventions.

In Davis County, Republican Rep. Sheryl Allen of Bountiful is being forced into a June 27 primary with fellow Republican Mark Jacobs.

In Salt Lake County, three women are leaving their seats. Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Karen Hale and Murray Democratic Sen. Patrice Arent both are retiring this year. And Holladay Democratic Rep. Pat Jones is leaving her House seat to run for Arent’s spot in the Senate. On Saturday, the one woman vying for Jones’ seat, Susan Westergard, was eliminated. After Roger Hoole and Lynn Hemingway were unable to muster 60 percent of the delegates’ votes, Hoole withdrew, giving Hemingway the nomination.

Delegates meeting at Highland High School nominated Jennifer Seelig to replace Salt Lake City Rep. Duane Bourdeaux, who resigned last week to give Seelig a few months as an incumbent. Still, Democratic women lawmakers will lose at least one of their colleagues as a result of Saturday’s voting.

“Right off the bat, we’ve lost a woman,” said Holladay Democratic Rep. Carol Moss, who recruited Westergard. “I don’t think people should be elected on the sole basis of their gender. But it’s important to represent both genders, just like it’s important to represent both parties.”

The struggle to replace Hale dragged on into the afternoon. Kelly Ann Booth and Salt Lake City Rep. Ross Romero battled for two rounds of voting to garner enough votes to avoid a primary. In the end, Booth withdrew.

Romero pledged to walk door-to-door to keep Hale’s seat in Democratic hands. He will face Republican Bryce Jolley, a former Salt Lake City councilman, in November. Hale represented the district for eight years. Before her, Republican Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler held the seat.

“Obviously, we need to work hard,” Romero said. “This is a district that has voted Republican. We can’t have that. Democrats are the mainstream party. That message will resonate.”

If Romero is elected, he would be the first Latino state senator since Alicia Suazo left the chamber in 2002.

In the race for retiring Republican Sen. Al Mansell’s seat, former lawmaker Trisha Beck beat out Jennifer Lee Jackson, a transgendered woman who served two terms on the Sandy City Council, to avoid a Democratic primary.

Jackson promised to run again. “I think people need to understand the diversity this world offers,” Jackson said. “My candidacy broke a lot of ground.”

Other Salt Lake County Democratic incumbents held off challengers, including House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, Rep. Carl Duckworth, Sen. Scott McCoy and Rep. Janice Fisher.

Despite snubbing Allen, Davis County Republicans gave former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn a shot at returning to the Legislature without facing a primary. And Clearfield Rep. Paul Ray prevailed over his challengers.

In Weber County, Democrats nominated incumbent Rep. Neil Hansen, while Republicans sent two candidates into a primary for House District 10. South Ogden Mayor George Garwood will face Johnathan Aubrey in a primary for the right to challenge Democratic Rep. Lou Shurtliff.

Meanwhile, North Ogden Rep. Glenn Donnelson, who has made his name as a fierce anti-illegal immigration lawmaker, eked out one vote over 60 percent to avoid a primary against challenger Fred Oates.

In Washington County, St. George Rep. Steven Urquhart’s opponent didn’t show up for Saturday’s convention, so the House Majority Whip easily won.