Utah Democrats are cheering pickups in the Legislature that, while nowhere close to a majority, will pad their slim ranks.
As of Wednesday morning, Democrats held solids leads in three House districts — H.D. 10, 32 and 44 — and Senate District 8 in Cottonwood Heights and Holladay.
In three other House Districts, Republican incumbents held on by just a few hundred votes. In Weber County’s House District 8, Democratic candidate Deana Froerer led Republican Steve Waldrip by just 35 votes.
“We’ve targeted 10 or 12 seats for some real intensive resources and hard work,” said Utah House Minority Leader Brian King on Tuesday night. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
If results hold, that means Democrats could make up as much 20 percent of the Utah House and Senate with 15 representatives and six Senators.
The gains were made in key suburban districts that Democrats had long had their eye on, including Sandy, Cottonwood Heights and Midvale.
Democrat Suzanne Harrison, who fell just shy of winning House District 32 in Sandy in 2016, came back to win the seat decisively over Republican challenger Brad Bonham.
Senate District 8, which was held by moderate Republican Brian Shiozawa until his resignation last year, was flipped by Democrat Kathleen Riebe. She beat Republican Brian Zehnder, Shiozawa’s fill-in.
With close to one-fourth of the Legislature turning over, the statehouse will be populated by a host of new freshman legislators in 2019. Republicans, who still hold a supermajority, will select new leadership for both chambers.
Rep. King said increased voter turnout, boosted by progressive-leaning ballot propositions, ultimately benefited the party more than Republicans.
“There’s a greater margin of Democratic registered voters who don’t generally show up in the midterms than there is the margin of Republican base voters who don’t show up in the midterms,” he said.