2012 elections preview: Utah voters to select winners in congressional, legislative primaries

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June 25, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

On Tuesday, Utah voters go to the polls to decide on Democratic and Republican nominees for Congress and the Utah State Legislature. Polls open at 7 a.m. Mountain Time and close at 8 p.m.[1] Click here (dead link) to find your polling place.

Contested Primaries in Utah -- June 26, 2012
U.S. House
(4 seats)
State Legislature
(91 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 1 (25%) 17 (18.7%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 0 (0%) 49 (53.8%)


Since the Democratic and Republican parties in the state hold caucuses in late April, most of the major party nominees have already been selected. Just two races are going to the primary: the Republican choice for U.S. Senate candidate, and the Democratic choice for the U.S. House 1st District. In these instances, the caucuses selected the top two candidates, but none of the candidates received 60 percent of the vote, the amount necessary to avoid a primary.

U.S. Senate

See also: United States Senate elections in Utah, 2012

Republican incumbent Orrin Hatch faces former state senator Dan Liljenquist in the primary. Politico listed it one of the top five primary battles this summer.[2]

As of the end of May 2012, the Super PAC FreedomWorks for America had spent almost $800,000 to defeat Hatch.[3] $650,000 of that was spent before the convention.[4] Hatch stepped up his game, however, spending $10 million on the campaign and gathering endorsements from top Republicans including Governor Gary Herbert and Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona. A photo-op with Mitt Romney was seen as a great boost, as well, with a FreedomWorks member commenting: "Romney has a 90 percent-plus approval rating in Utah, and he’s come out for Orrin Hatch. So you can’t really touch that. It is hard."[2]

Liljenquist, however, offers something a good number of voters are looking for: an alternative for "voters who blame the lifers in Washington in both parties for the fiscal mess."[5] In the lone debate between the two candidates, the challenger asked Hatch, "Do you feel at all personally responsible for the debt crisis in Washington?"[5]

Polls have Hatch leading by a comfortable margin.[6]

U.S. House

See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Utah, 2012

Utah has four U.S. House seats up for election in 2012. Just one primary will take place, the Democratic primary. At the Democratic caucus, both Ryan Combe and Donna McAleer failed to receive the necessary 60 percent of the vote, so the race will go to a primary.

McAleer, a West Point graduate and former nonprofit executive, said Congress needs more female and veteran voices.[7] Combe, an entrepreneur and university fundraiser, is focusing on the cost of higher education.[7]

McAleer has outraised Combe, although both candidates are new to politics and have each raised under $100,000 for their campaigns.[7]

Members of the U.S. House from Utah -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 1 1
     Republican Party 2 3
Total 3 4

State legislature

Utah State Senate elections, 2012 and Utah House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 91 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 16 Senate seats and 75 House seats.

There are 17 (18.7 percent of total) contested Democratic primaries, 49 (53.8 percent of total) contested Republican primaries, and no contested third party primaries. Thus, there were be 66 Utah state legislative races with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 66 major party primaries represents 36.4 percent of possible major party primaries. This figure is higher the current national contested average of 20.02 percent for states that have had filing deadlines.

Utah's party primary system has two phases: the convention and the primary. The party convention limits the field of candidates to two for each seat. A candidate has to earn at least 40 percent of the votes of all delegates at the party convention to appear on the primary election ballot. A candidate who earns 60 percent appears on the ballot unopposed. The competitiveness figures calculated above reflect the state of the contests prior to the convention.[8][9][10][11]


In the Senate, there are a total of 2 incumbents facing a primary challenge on June 26, 2012 - both of them are Republicans. The incumbents are both facing challenges from current members of the State House.

Republican Party District 24: Incumbent Ralph Okerlund is running against Patrick Painter.
Republican Party District 28: Incumbent Casey Anderson is running against Evan Vickers.


In the House, there are a total of 8 incumbents facing a primary challenge - 1 Democrat and 7 Republicans.

Republican Party District 4: Republican incumbent David G Butterfield is challenged by former Bear River Health Department deputy director Edward Redd.[12]
Republican Party District 16: Republican incumbent Stephen Handy is challenged by second-time candidate Chris Crowder.[13]
Republican Party District 21: Republican incumbent Douglas Sagers is challenged by Alison McCoy.
Republican Party District 29: District 6 Republican incumbent Brad J Galvez will face District 2 Republican incumbent Lee B. Perry to claim this new seat.
Democratic Party District 33: Democratic incumbent Neal Hendrickson is challenged by Liz Muniz.
Republican Party District 48: District 58 Republican incumbent Keven Stratton will face Taz Murray in the primary.
Republican Party District 60: Republican incumbent Bradley Daw is challenged by Dana Layton.
Republican Party District 68: Republican incumbent Bill Wright is challenged by attorney and former legislator Merril Nelson.[14]

Utah State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 7 5
     Republican Party 22 24
Total 29 29

Utah House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 17 14
     Republican Party 58 61
Total 75 75