Silas Walker, KSL, File

'It's been the honor of my life': Utah’s longest-serving state senator ousted in Republican primary

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Updated - Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:18 p.m. | Posted - Jul. 1, 2020 at 4:35 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s longest-serving state senator, who has held a seat representing a northern Utah district for more than three decades, was ousted by Republican voters in Tuesday’s primary.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who represents Senate District 25, trailed challenger Chris Wilson 62% to 38% with a little more than 13,500 ballots counted by Tuesday night, according to state election results. After another 1,500 ballots were counted and turned in Wednesday afternoon, Wilson, a Logan car dealer, maintained a 62% to 38% advantage.

Tuesday’s vote will become official after a canvas that will be completed later this month. But Hillyard bowed out in a social media post late Wednesday morning.

Senate District 25 covers Utah’s farthest northeastern part of the state with Rich County and parts of Cache County, including Logan. Hillyard has served as the senator for the district since 1985; he served as a state representative from 1980 to 1984 prior to that.

"It has been the honor of my life to serve as your Senator for the past 36 years. The road has not been easy but it has definitely been worth it," he wrote in the post, adding that the future will be "a crucial time" for the areas he serves.

"We are working to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. We must protect public health, ensure safe and equitable communities, increase education funding, invest in critical infrastructure, and support our rapid population growth," he continued. "While I will no longer have the opportunity to serve you in the Legislature on these issues after this year, I look forward to continuing my legacy of dedicated service to our great community in other ways."

Recently, Hillyard co-chaired Utah’s Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force and was the chief sponsor of a controversial 2019 tax reform bill that lawmakers ultimately repealed earlier this year after enough voters signed a petition to force a referendum.

Appearing on KSL NewsRadio’s “Dave & Dujanovic” Wednesday morning, Wilson explained that he had met with Hillyard about four times over the past year as the president of the New Car Dealers of Utah to talk about different issues, including sales tax reform.

During one of those meetings last August, Wilson said Hillyard gave him his blessing to run for the senate seat and Wilson had the impression Hillyard wasn’t going to run. Hillyard texted Wilson in December that he changed his mind and would seek another term; Wilson said by then that he had gotten positive feedback about his campaign.

He added that he met with Hillyard on Jan. 20 — about the same time the referendum was getting enough signatures to be placed on a ballot — and told him that he would run against him. The bill was officially repealed the following week.

“I just got the feeling a lot of people wanted a choice. They probably thought it was time for a change,” Wilson said on the radio program. “There were people questioning whether he was a little disconnected and wasn’t listening to the voters. We know about the referendum, and at that time there was some concern about the solution to the sales tax reform they had come up with — and a lot of people were not pleased.”

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That’s not to say Wilson didn’t lose respect for Hillyard. Wilson added that he and his family have been close friends with the Hillyards “for a really long time.”

“I really want to recognize him and show (my) appreciation for his service that he’s given his community,” Wilson said.

Wilson will move on to face Democratic nominee Nancy Huntly in the November general election.

Other Utah legislature races

District 25 was one of five state senate seats with a primary Tuesday. All five involved Republican candidates. As of Wednesday:

  • Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, leads challenger Karen Hyatt 53% to 47% with a 536-vote advantage for the District 6 Republican nomination.
  • Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, holds a 52% to 48% lead over challenger Rich Cunningham with a difference of 730 total votes for the District 10 Republican nomination.
  • Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, leads challenger Sylvia Andrew, 55% to 45%, with a 1,420 vote lead for the District 16 Republican nomination.
  • John Johnson leads Johnny Ferry, 56% to 44%, with a 920 vote difference for the District 19 Republican nomination. Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, did not seek re-election.

There were also 13 primary elections for Utah House of Representative nominations. As of Wednesday:

  • Challenger Mike Peterson leads incumbent Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, 56% to 44%, for the House District 3 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, leads challenger Jennifer Hogge, 60% 40%, for the House District 14 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, leads challenger Leann Wood, 63% to 37% for the House District 17 Republican nomination.
  • Fatima Dirie leads Ofa Matagi, 70% to 30%, for the House District 33 Democratic nomination.
  • Jordan Teuscher leads Aaron Starks, 56% to 44%, for the House District 42 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Steven Christiansen, R-West Jordan, leads challenger Nathan Brown, 60% to 40%, for the House District 47 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, holds a slim 50.3% to 49.7% lead over challenger David Shallenberger for the House District 48 Republican nomination.
  • Mike Kohler leads Randy Favero, 68% to 32%, for the House District 54 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, leads challenger Merrilee Boyack, 58% to 42%, for the House District 56 Republican nomination.
  • Steven Lund leads Clinton Painter, 55% to 45%, for the House District 58 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, leads challenger Kenneth Grover, 64% to 36%, for the House District 61 Republican nomination.
  • Jefferson Burton leads Kari Malkovich, 60% to 40%, for the House District 66 Republican nomination.
  • Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, leads challenger Willie Billings, 52% to 48%, for the House District 71 Republican nomination.

Contributing: Dave Noriega, KSL NewsRadio and Amy Donaldson, Deseret News

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