Tooele County Republican voters ousted one incumbent House candidate and kept a second one in Tuesday’s primary election.
Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, saw his 19 years in the state Legislature come to an end as Republicans in his new, five-county House District 68 backed Grantsville resident Merrill Nelson with 52 percent of votes cast on Tuesday. Nelson picked up 68 percent of the vote in Tooele County.
Rep. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, reversed a second-place finish at the Tooele County Republican Convention to defeat political newcomer Alison McCoy for House District 21 with 54 percent of the vote in the primary.
The primary sets the stage for Tooele County to have two resident legislators, if Nelson beats his Democratic opponent from Juab County in the general election.
“I’m glad to have the primary behind us. The first half of the year has been very busy for the party. We came off of redistricting meetings and went right into the legislative session and then straight into caucus meetings, the county and state conventions, and then the primary,” said Chris Sloan, Tooele County Republican Party chairman. “We had four quality candidates in the House races and now we have two quality nominees.”
Sloan was disappointed with the turnout however. Tooele County Clerk Marilynn Gillette reported that 17 percent of registered voters turned out on Tuesday.
While 3,433 Republicans voted in the two House seat races, compared to 2,905 that voted in the 2010 primary — an 18 percent increase — Millard County managed to out-vote Tooele County in the House District 68 race.
In Millard County, 1,812 voters cast ballots for either Nelson or Wright, while 1,635 votes were cast for the two candidates in Tooele County.
“I had expected a larger turnout from Tooele County given the interest expressed in having two legislators from our county,” said Sloan.
Nelson said he is ready to take a short rest and then continue his campaign for the general election.
“It has been a long road,” said Nelson. “I am humbled by the support I have received. I had good support in Tooele County from people that got behind me because they wanted local representation.”
Sagers admits he was poorly prepared for caucus meetings and the county convention, but the primary allowed him to put his best foot forward as he faced voters.
“There was a very short period of time between the end of the legislative session and caucus meetings,” said Sagers. “I was caught a little off guard because I did not expect a Republican challenger.”
Sagers said the primary gave him a chance to campaign and let people know about his record. Once he was able to do that, people responded positively, Sagers said.
Sloan said Sagers and McCoy both ran good campaigns, and he hopes Tooele County will see more of McCoy.
“Alison ran a good campaign and voters responded well to her,” said Sloan. “I think we will see more of her in the future.”
Sagers will meet Democrat Dave Swan and Constitution Party candidate William Bodine in the Nov. 6 general election. Nelson will take on Democrat Thomas Nedreberg, of Eureka, and Constitution Party candidate Paul McCollaum, of Abraham, in the general election.
It has been 30 years since Tooele County has had two members sitting in the House. In 1982 Tooele County was represented in the House by Beverly White, of Tooele, and Jack Smith, of Grantsville.
Smith was redistricted into the same district as White and Lee Allen of Garland in Box Elder County won the House seat that included the balance of Tooele County, according to White’s recollection.
The last time Tooele County had two residents in the state legislature was in 2005 when two Democrats represented Tooele County. Jim Gowans, of Tooele, held House District 21 and Ron Allen, of Stansbury Park, represented Senate District 12, which included part of West Valley City as well as Stansbury Park. In 2005 Allen left the Senate to accept an appointment to the Public Service Commission by then Governor Jon Huntsman and Brent Goodfellow-D of West Valley City was appointed to fill Allen’s senate seat.
There were also several nonpartisan primary elections held on Tuesday.
Voters living on the southwest side of Tooele City in precincts Tooele 17 through Tooele 21 selected local piano teacher and Phil’s Glass employee Stacy Smart and retired Tooele Junior High School teacher Kathy Taylor as their choices for the general election ballot to fill the vacant District 1 seat on the Tooele County School Board.
Unofficial results show Smart and Taylor tying with 149 votes. Dropped by voters from the ballot for the school district post were Al Bottema, the Tooele County School District’s energy manager and Keith Davis, Grantsville Junior High school principal.
Pine Canyon Township voters selected Richard Warner and Matt Peterson to run for Pine Canyon Planning Commission seat A, dropping Delbert Jameson from the ballot. They also selected Kelly Brown and Amanda Jones to run for seat B on the planning commission, dropping Teresa Gossett.
South Rim Special Service District voters in November will select either William Hogan or James Grgich for their special service district board after eliminating Russell Bartholomew in the primary.
At the state level, voters gave the go-ahead to Sen. Orrin Hatch to seek a seventh term in the U.S. Senate with 68 percent of the vote. Hatch defeated Dan Liljenquist, who served in the state Senate for three years. John Swallow, who received 68 percent of the votes cast, is now the Republican nominee for state attorney general, defeating Sean Reyes. Rep. John Dougall defeated 17-year state auditor Auston Johnson with 54 percent of the vote to become the Republican nominee for state auditor.