Oct 24, 2022 - News

Three Utah House races to watch

Photo Illustration of Trevor Lee, Stephen Handy

illustration: Axios Visuals. L-R Trevor Lee, Steve Handy. Photo: Courtesy of the Lee campaign, Utah House of Representatives

Most of Utah's legislative seats are in districts that are safely red or blue, but here are three House races that could get interesting.

District 69: Incumbent Rep. Phil Lyman (R) vs. Davina Smith (D)

Details: Longtime conservative representative Phil Lyman is facing his most serious challenge in recent memory from Davina Smith, who would be Utah's first Indigenous legislator.

Why it matters: Lyman has been a controversy magnet, especially in his fights over land use and support for the Bundy family's anti-government crusades.

  • Lyman received a pardon in 2020 from former President Trump for illegally leading an ATV protest into a protected canyon containing sensitive Indigenous sites.
  • He has also stoked fears of election fraud, opposed court-ordered remedies to racist gerrymandering in San Juan County and challenged Smith's eligibility to run for his seat.
  • By contrast, Smith ran 360 miles in 2019 on foot from Bears Ears National Monument to Salt Lake City to show the site's significance as a place of healing and support the embattled monument.

District 16: GOP Rep. Steve Handy (write-in) vs. Trevor Lee (R)

Utah's House District 16 encompasses Layton and South Weber.

Details: The district is currently held by Republican Rep. Steve Handy, who has held the seat since 2010.

Yes, but: GOP delegates chose Lee over Handy by 59 votes as the Republican nominee during the Davis County Convention in April.

Between the lines: While Lee is a clear frontrunner in the race, he came under scrutiny after it was revealed he was behind an anonymous Twitter account that bashed transgender people and Gov. Spencer Cox, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The intrigue: Handy has launched a write-in campaign to keep his seat, garnering the backing of former Gov. Gary Herbert. Lee has received the endorsement of former GOP U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.

District 10: Incumbent Rep. Rosemary Lesser (D) vs. Jill Koford (R)

The Weber County district is the only House seat outside of Salt Lake County held by a Democrat — and Republicans want it.

  • Trump won the district in 2020, but only by about 3 percentage points.

The candidates: Lesser was appointed to the seat last year after Lou Shurtliff died from pneumonia. She has been a vocal opponent of Utah's 3% food tax.

  • Koford has said she's running because she feels small-government conservatism isn't represented in the state legislature (the House is 77% Republican).

The intrigue: Lorraine Brown, whom Koford defeated in the Republican primary, has endorsed Lesser.

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