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Find KUER's reporting on the races, candidates and more for Utah’s 2018 midterm elections. Click here for our graphics of the U.S. Senate race, 4 Congressional races and Utah ballot initiatives.

Utah Democrats Make Statehouse Gains In Salt Lake’s Suburbs

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Cory Dinter for KUER
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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.

 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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