Utah counties canvass results, solidifying wins in several close local races

(Spenser Heaps, KSL, File)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah county boards of canvassers approved local election results on Tuesday, calling many close races that have remained nail-biters in the two weeks since Election Day.

In Salt Lake County, Utah's most populous county, Clerk Sherrie Swensen lauded "unimaginable" turnout of over 90% after about 100,000 new residents registered to vote since 2016. In total, Salt Lake County had over 610,000 active registered voters in this year's presidential election. Of those, nearly 550,000 cast ballots, Swensen said, including over 51,000 in person and over 498,000 by mail.

In Utah County, 291,159 ballots were cast out of 326,485 active registered voters, putting the county's turnout at a record breaking 89.18%, according to Utah County Clerk/Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner.

While some people "didn't understand it takes a long time" for mail-in ballots to be processed, Swensen noted in the Salt Lake County's Board of Canvasser's meeting they've always had the two-week canvassing period "to make sure every ballot is processed and every vote is counted."

"Results can change, and they did in some of these contests," Swensen said.

The most high-profile Utah race to flip as more ballots were counted was Rep. Ben McAdams' contest with Burgess Owens for Utah's 4th Congressional District. After losing his election night lead as more ballots were counted McAdams, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, conceded to Owens on Monday. New results from the canvasses Tuesday show Owens received 179,688 to McAdams' 175,923, a 1 percentage point win.

Election results won't be final until the state board of canvassers certifies the results next Monday.

State Republicans make comebacks

After trailing their Democratic challengers on election night, both Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, rebounded as more ballots were counted.

They closed the gap and pulled ahead to keep their seats in the Utah House, taking back two out of three House seats Democrats were originally on track to claim from Republicans on election night.

When results were certified Monday, Eliason warded off Democrat Wendy Davis from taking his seat by a mere 77 votes out of 19,419 votes cast in House District 45. Dunnigan kept his seat from Democrat Lynette Wendel by only 84 votes out of 15,588 votes cast in House District 39.

Only one Democratic challenger, Ashlee Matthews, was victorious in her bid to take a seat away from a GOP incumbent in the Utah House: Rep. Eric Hutchings, of Kearns. Matthews pulled off a win with nearly 51.7% of the vote to Hutchings' 48.3% in House District 38.

Republican Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, pulled off a win after he was in danger of losing his House District 33 seat on election night to Democrat Fatima Dirie. He narrowly won by 146 votes out of 10,650 votes cast.

Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, also successfully kept his House District 49 seat, beating Democrat Siamak Khadjenoury with 53.8% to 46.2% of the vote.

In House District 43, Republican Rep. Cheryl Acton, West Jordan, won with about 52.4% of the vote to Democrat Diane Lewis' 42.2%. United Utah candidate Jefferson Bardin's got 5.4%.

For the House District 22 seat left vacant by retired Rep. Sue Duckworth, D-Magna, Clare Collard pulled off a narrow win to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Collard bested Republican Anthony Loubet by just 266 votes out of 14,212 cast.

Salt Lake County races

Republicans celebrated a historic win after GOP challenger Laurie Stringham flipped her race with Salt Lake County Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani, a Democrat. Stringham's win by just 1,189 votes out of 509,133 cast gave Republicans a 6-3, veto-proof supermajority on the Salt Lake County Council for the first time in over a decade.

Ghorbani conceded to Stringham on Monday.

In a celebratory email the Utah Republican Party circulated on Monday titled "Salt Lake County Turning Red!" party Chairman Derek Brown said "this gives Republicans an opportunity to finally put a stop to the progressive policies" that have "plagued" the county.

But Democrats still have control over the Salt Lake County mayor's office. Mayor Jenny Wilson beat Republican challenger Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs with nearly 51.9% of the vote to Staggs' 44.8%.

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Along with Stringham, Republicans former South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord and Dea Theodore beat their Democratic opponents in two races for Salt Lake County Council seats previously held by Republicans.

Alvord beat Democrat Deborah Gatrell with 55.8% of the vote to 44.2% for the District 2 seat vacated by Councilman Michael Jensen, who did not run for reelection.

Theodore won with 55% of the vote to Democrat Terri Tapp Hrechkosy's 44.8% for the District 6 seat. Incumbent Councilman Max Burdick, a Republican, ran as a write-in candidate after he failed to win the GOP nomination in the primary. He lost his seat after he only captured 0.2% of the vote.

Another Democrat was successful, however, in keeping a countywide office. Salt Lake County Recorder Rashelle Hobbs successfully hung on to her seat in a fairly narrow race with Republican Erin Preston. Hobbs won by 8,643 votes out of 500,311 votes cast. The margin was 1.72%.

For county assessor, Republican Chris Stavros stayed ahead of Democrat Jennifer Fresques, with 50.6% of the vote to 49.4%. For county treasurer, Republican incumbent Wayne Cushing kept his office with 52.6% of the vote to Democrat Michael McDonald's 47.4%.

Other close local races

Issues of growth in rural Tooele County led to a hard-fought battle over incorporating the small area of Erda, west of Stansbury Park. On election night the race was too close to call, but following Tooele County's canvass on Tuesday, the effort to make Erda into Utah's newest city was successful.

The question to incorporate, on the Tooele County ballot as Proposition 20, was approved by just 62 votes out of 1,948 cast. Erda voters picked their form of government to be a five-member council, elected by district.

In Davis County, another race that was too close to call on election night was the ballot question of whether Kaysville should enact a $22 million, up to 30-year bond for a municipal fiber-optic network. Voters narrowly rejected the proposition, with 8,855 voting against and 8,570 voting in favor.

In Millard County, a proposition to ban hog farms was narrowly rejected with 3,186 votes against and 2,867 votes in favor.

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Katie McKellar

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