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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Utah Democrats Could Pick Up Three Seats in State House. What Does that Mean for the Legislature?

A photo of the Utah State Capitol building.
Brian Albers
Republicans maintain a supermajority in the Utah state Legislature. But some potential wins for Democrats could mean a shift in partisan dynamics.

At least three Utah state House seats in central Salt Lake County could flip blue this year.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville and Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, trail their democratic challengers by single digits.

Democratic House Minority Leader Brian King said if his party can hold on to those leads, the wins will bring some needed balance to the House, even though Republicans would maintain their supermajority.

“It’s always helpful to have more bodies,” King said. “It helps keep extremists, extreme elements within the Republican caucus from basically trying to run the agenda and have their way.”

While Salt Lake County appears to be getting more democratic, University of Utah Political Science professor Matthew Burbank, said the rest of the state isn’t. In this central part of the county, the unpopular tax reform bill of 2019 and the presidential race may have influenced these districts.

“It may be the case that there were kind of Republican voters in these suburban areas who were taking a broader look at Democratic candidates because they already had some questions about whether they were going to vote for the very top of the ticket for [President] Donald Trump,” he said.

Utah Republican Party Chair Derek Brown said those factors could be different next election and they’re not yet admitting defeat in this year’s races. But, he admitted the area is getting more blue, and they’ll fight to keep it red.

“A lot of it is outreach to Republicans or younger voters who don't necessarily understand the principles that sort of animate the Republican Party,” he said. “A lot of it is organization, voter outreach and a lot of the things that we've been doing this year.”

Salt Lake County expects to release more results Friday afternoon.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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