Utah candidates file for office, but many unopposed

SALT LAKE CITY — Jacquie Nielsen burst into the Lt. Governor’s Office out of breath.

“I made it!’ she gasped, looking up at the clock. “Hey! I have time to spare.”

Nielsen made it into the office five minutes before the deadline to file as a Republican running in Senate District 2, held by incumbent Democrat Jim Dabakis. She was among hundreds of others who filed to run for the Utah State Legislature, congress and attorney general.

“People wait until the last filing day,” said Mark Thomas, the Lt. Governor’s Director of Elections. “They look at the list, they see the office they might be interested in, want to see the other candidates who have filed. We get that last-minute rush of candidates.”

This year, many races faced absolutely no challenger as of 5 p.m. Thursday. They include:

  • Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City
  • Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan
  • Rep. Edward Redd, R-Logan
  • Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City
  • Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville
  • Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem
  • Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton
  • Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab

FOX 13 counted seven districts in the House that had no Democrats filing as of the 5 p.m. deadline Thursday. Those districts had Republicans challenging each other or facing a third-party candidate. They are:

  • House District 2, in the Eagle Mountain/Saratoga Springs area;
  • House District 55 in Duchesne County;
  • House District 58 which includes parts of Sanpete and Juab counties;
  • House District 63 which includes parts of Provo;
  • House District 64 which includes parts of Provo and Springville (the district of outgoing House Speaker Becky Lockhart);
  • House District 68, encompassing a large swath of western Utah;
  • House District 72, which includes part of Iron County

“I think the Republicans gerrymandered a lot of the state, which really caused some hurdles in certain areas. But I also think there’s Democrats who are proud to stand up and represent and let people know from Logan to St. George there’s a Democrat,” said Matt Lyon, the Utah Democratic Party executive director.

The Utah Democratic Party has been drafting many candidates to run. Some told FOX 13 they were ambivalent until pressed to by the party.

“I was asked to by the Democratic Party and I’ve always wanted to, so I’m here!” said Kathryn Gustafson, a Democratic challenger to Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy.

On Thursday, a large group of members of the Independent American Party filed to run for various offices. They told FOX 13 they were doing it because many others would not run.

“They need to stand for their freedoms,” said Jolene Kniffing, a candidate for House District 40. “That’s what our founding fathers said.”

Nielsen said she believed more candidates needed to jump in for good government.

“I think that we need to make sure there are people running in each race to have the debate from both points of view, a third point of view if we have a different party as well,” she said. “Because the issues are so important to our future, to our children and grandchildren.”

See a list of candidates from the Lt. Governor’s Office here.

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