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Some of the races to watch in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 4:26 PM, Sep 26, 2022

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — As we move closer to Election Day, some races are getting more competitive.

One of those is House District 30, which incorporates a big chunk of West Valley City. The district, currently in Republican hands, could swing the other way in November as Democrats have come close in previous elections. Fatima Dirie, the Democratic candidate, narrowly lost to then-Rep. Craig Hall two years ago. She is now challenging incumbent appointed-Rep. Judy Weeks-Rohner.

"It’s a very important race," Dirie said in an interview with FOX 13 News. "We have an opportunity to actually reflect the community, select a candidate that looks like the community and has the experience."

Weeks-Rohner said she is working hard to earn every vote.

"I want my voters to know that I work for them, that I am a fighter, that I don’t give up," Weeks-Rohner said at a recent honk-and-wave event.

Also in the race is Evan Rodgers with the United Utah Party.

"If I can bring people on all parts of the political spectrum together to have a conversation in some small way, that is what I'm going for," he said in a recent interview.

The candidates offered different issues they are hearing from voters about as they knock on doors.

"There’s a lot of frustration around the rental increase of housing. That’s been the main issue constituents are talking about, as well as our economy," Dirie said, noting the working class families in West Valley City.

Weeks-Rohner said she had been told similar.

"People are concerned about inflation, and they're concerned about the tax on food and they know that I am working diligently to try to remove the state portion," she said.

Rodgers said he would like to push policies around health care.

"We need to expand the care we’re providing to our community. A big point I'm pushing is particularly expanding mental health care," he said.

Jason Perry, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said the House District 30 race is arguably the most competitive in the Utah State Legislature.

"It could go any way. That is one of those particular districts that has been very close in the past," he said.

With newly redrawn boundaries thanks to redistricting, Republicans continue their legislative dominance. However, some seats are still proving competitive, if even in unusual races. Perry pointed to House District 16, which encompasses parts of Layton.

After losing at the Davis County Republican Party convention to Trevor Lee, incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Handy launched a write-in campaign. Perry said Handy has a shot at winning re-election if he can get voters to write in "Steve Handy."

"He’s facing a candidate, Trevor Lee, who’s had a little bit of controversy. He was condemned by our own legislature, his potential colleagues one day, for things he has said online," Perry said. "And also Steve Handy has raised quite a bit of money. If Steve Handy can’t do it, and it remains to be seen what he can do, but if he can't do it, it’s going to be almost impossible for anyone else to do it."

The race got even more interesting when another "Steve" jumped into the race. Steve Fershtut recently launched his own write-in campaign. He told KSL Radio he was asked to jump in by a supporter of Lee's.

Rep. Rosemary Lesser is campaigning hard to keep her seat in a new district. The Ogden Democrat is facing a challenge from Republican Jill Koford in newly drawn boundaries for House District 10 as a result of redistricting.

Another race Perry said people should watch is between incumbent Republican Rep. Phil Lyman and his Democratic challenger Davina Smith for House District 69, which includes San Juan County and parts of Kane and Garfield counties. If elected, Smith would be the first Native American woman to serve in the House.

"Davina Smith has raised much more money than he has, but he’s got signs everywhere," Perry said. "It’s interesting to see if you can gauge based on signs or fundraising."

Another race is getting attention for its levels of litigation. The Utah Democratic Party has sued over former Rep. Joel Ferry's name on the ballot for House District 1. The Republican from Brigham City resigned from the legislature when he was confirmed to serve under Governor Spencer Cox as executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The Democratic party argues that his name should be stricken from the ballot, leaving only their candidate — Joshua Hardy — on the ballot in the overwhelmingly GOP district.

However, he will remain on the ballot. The Democratic party has repeatedly lost battles in court, most recently at the Utah Supreme Court. The party said in a statement recently it will continue to pursue legal challenges to it.

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