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Utah House GOP will add to its supermajority in January

Utah lawmakers at work in the state House of Representatives during the 2022 legislative session, Jan. 25, 2022
Ivana Martinez
Utah lawmakers at work in the state House of Representatives during the 2022 legislative session, Jan. 25, 2022

Utah House Republicans will have an even larger supermajority when the next legislative session starts in January — there will be 14 Democrats and 61 Republicans.

With the 2022 midterms now officially over, Republican Quinn Kotter defeated Democrat incumbent Elizabeth Weight by 127 votes in District 26 and Republican Anthony Loubet nudged Democratic incumbent Clare Collard by just 67 votes in neighboring District 27.

This isn’t Loubet’s first attempt at becoming a lawmaker. He ran and lost in 2020. The reason he ran for office is that he didn’t feel like the west side of the Salt Lake Valley was being represented appropriately.

“There’s a lot of people that I’ve talked to in my area that just feel like the west side is forgotten,” Loubet said, pointing to ailing road infrastructure as an example.

Loubet said he wants to abolish the sales tax on food, lower property taxes and examine tax cuts to make sure they’re benefiting low-income residents.

His opponent, Rep. Clare Collard thinks that District 27 was drawn out of her favor. She said her old stomping grounds, District 22, used to be more blue when it covered all of Magna and a sliver of West Valley City. The new additions to the map, Collard said, lean Republican.

Loubet acknowledged that the new legislative boundaries helped him win because there are more “conservative-leaning areas.” But added that his approach to controversial issues, like abortion, seemed to appeal to enough unaffiliated voters.

“We're trying to balance these interests. And that's where people, I think when I talk to them, like to be able to have those dialogues,” he said. “They're just tired of having everything to be black and white, either this or that.”

Collard also thinks three negative mailers paid for by the Make Liberty Win PAC that were sent each week leading up to the election contributed to her loss. The ads claimed Collard wanted to “jack up” property taxes, evict people who couldn’t pay rent and increase the sales food tax.

She said the mailers were “completely disgusting“ and filled with “lies and falsehoods.”

Collard wasn’t an elected official in 2019 when the legislature put forth a tax bill that raised the sales tax on groceries. The Utah Legislature later removed the sales food tax hike after a referendum.

“I'm really concerned about the future of these local races and how we will get candidates to run if people are subjected to these kinds of vicious personal attacks,” she added.

Shortly after the mailers were sent out, Loubet said he received negative text messages about him from the Battleground Utah PAC. Loubet refuted the premise of the two text messages sent on Nov. 2 and 3 which claimed that he wants “to slash social security” and “prioritize tax breaks for millionaires.”

“I work with people with intellectual disabilities so part of my funding comes from people receiving Social Security,” said Loubet, who works as a lawyer. “So it seems to be a conflict of interest if I did that.”

Loubet said he was unaware of the negative ads against Collard until a Democratic friend informed him. Once he knew, Loubet reached out to Collard stating he was “disgusted by the content and the negativity of the ads.” He also addressed the ads on his campaign Facebook page.

Collard told KUER that she didn’t know the texts about Loubet were sent until a friend let her know and that the texts were not sent by her or her campaign. She said she condemns negative campaigning.

“My goal was always to run a clean and transparent campaign,” Collard said.

But the bigger concern to Collard is what she considers to be the state of democracy. She said the Legislature ignored the independent redistricting commission that Utahns voted for in 2018.

“Voters have less of a say,” she said. “And I think that just doesn't bode well for democracy and balance within the state of Utah. It becomes more of a one-party rule.”

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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