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Political Newcomer Ousts Incumbent Lyle Hillyard After 35 Years In Utah State Senate

Photo of a man standing outside
Courtesy of the Chris Wilson campaign
Businessman Chris Wilson, a political newcomer, has ousted longtime Utah state Sen. Lyle Hillyard.

In a stunning upset, state Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, has been ousted by a political newcomer after 35 years in the Utah Senate and nearly 40 years in the state Legislature. 

Hillyard trailed businessman Chris Wilson by about 25% as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Wilson, who owns a car dealership in Logan, said he’s thankful for Hillyard’s service in the state Legislature, but he “thought it was time for some fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.”

Hillyard sponsored a controversial tax reform package in December 2019. It cut income tax but raised taxes on groceries and some services, amounting to an overall tax cut of about $160 million. It became law before being quickly repealed by lawmakers in January after a referendum against it gained enough signatures to get on the ballot.

“There's no question that a lot of people felt they weren't listened to with the sales tax reform,” Wilson said. “It was just rushed through and kind of pushed on people.” 

Hillyard said the tax reform certainly contributed to his defeat.

“People didn't catch the message we were trying to deliver, and that's probably our fault,” Hillyard said. “We should have done a better job with messaging. But the problem hasn't gone away and they're going to have to face it sooner or later.”

Hillyard added that it’s been an honor to serve in the Legislature, and he is somewhat relieved he lost due to the pandemic-related revenue problems the Legislature is tasked with addressing.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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