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Democrats lose recent gains in Legislature

By Richard Piatt | Posted - Nov. 5, 2010 at 6:10 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The balance of power in the Utah Legislature shifted even more heavily toward the GOP this week.

Democrats, who have made up a vast minority at the Legislature for years, lost six seats on Election Night. That erases gains they've made in the recent past.

Utah State Legislature

SenateHouse of Rep.
Republicans2258
Democrats717
Total2975

The 22 seats Democrats held over the last two years now is cut to 17 in the House.

The heaviest losses were in Salt Lake County. Reps. Trisha Beck, Jay Seegmiller, and Laura Black -- all representing Sandy -- lost, along with Reps. Jim Gowans, D-Tooele, and Neil Hansen, D-Ogden.

In the Senate, longtime West Valley Democrat legislator Brent Goodfellow was voted out, cutting the Democrat numbers there from eight to seven.

In the House, Seegmiller, Beck and Black won elections on the Democrat wave two years ago. The Hinckley Institute's Kirk Jowers says the political pendulum has swung back in a big way.

"This latest vote was obviously devastating for the Democratic party," he says.

Jowers says part of the reason is the national Republican tide sweeping into Utah. He predicts it will affect both legislation and redistricting efforts.

"This greases the skids a little bit more," Jowers says, "but certainly redistricting will be done in the Republicans' favor just as it is in other areas around the country."

Democrats rarely have leverage to influence legislation because their numbers are so small. However their voices did count on controversial issues like vouchers or last year's proposed Constitutional Amendment to end affirmative action.

House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, says, "We have to respect the decision of the voters, and it's the decision the constituents made. But we lost some very effective legislators. I think there's going to be an impact to the constituency."

Voters won't have a chance to react to the results of any impact at the polls for another two years.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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