Thursday, August 4, 2016

Low Turnout, Crowded Races: Primary Election 2016

With a dismal voter turnout, Tuesday's primary results provide only a brief glimpse into what may happen in November’s general election. The vote counts are still early, and majorities remain the same until after the next election. With 20% of votes counted, here’s a quick summary of the state legislature and statewide races.

Senate Republicans keep edge, House Democrats see slight increase

Going into the primary, Republicans controlled the Senate with a 25-23 party majority, and a 26-23 majority when Democrat Tim Sheldon joined the majority caucus. Based on primary results, it would appear that most Senators are holding firm, while two have a race on their hands in November that could mean a party change.

Seven of the 25 Senators who had terms expiring January 2017 are not returning to the Legislature, having decided to retire or run for a different office. In all of these races, current House members are running for the Senate seat. If the results today were the end, these seats would stay with their party of record.

In addition, six senators whose terms expire in 2019 filed to run for a different office last May; of those, it appears that only three will be moving on to the general election. If they are successful in November, county commissioners in those legislative districts would be required to select a replacement of the same party next December or January. The others will return to the Senate for the 2017 legislative session.

Primary result: 24 Republicans, 25 Democrats (but Sheldon expected to continue to caucus with Rs)

In the House, Democrats have a 50-48 majority, which means Republicans only needed to flip one seat to force a “tie government” come January. In addition to the seven House members running for Senate, seven are running for a different office or retired. House members must run every two years, which means that 14 open House seats were up for grabs in this election. In addition, both parties fielded some aggressive candidates, taking on incumbents in both Republican- and Democratic-held districts. Of the 98 seats up this year, three could change party hands, while several others remain in play November 8.

Primary result: 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans

Reykdal, Jones to face off in November
The top two “vote getters” regardless of party move onto the general election. Surprisingly, five of the nine separately elected statewide positions were open this year. On the education front, House Representative Chris Reykdal and educator Erin Jones will advance in the race to replace retiring Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Other top two candidates advancing to the November election are (with 20% of vote counted, as of 9:37p.m. on August 2nd):

·         Commissioner for Public Lands: Steve McLaughlin R; Hilary Franz D
·         Treasurer: Duane Davidson R; Michael Waite R
·         Auditor: Mark Miloscia R; Pat McCarthy D
·         Lieutenant Governor: Marty McClendon R; Cyrus Habib D (NOTE: A crowded field of Democrats led a Republican, who has likely never been on the Senate floor, to take the lead and advance to the General)