Both of Cache County’s incumbents for state legislators in the Senate and the House are trailing in primary results as new votes are processed and unofficial tallies released.
“He’s won,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, of Logan. “There’s no way I’ll win, so he’s won, and I’m not even worrying about it anymore.”
Hillyard upset an incumbent for the state senate’s District 25 seat 35 years ago, and challenger Chris Wilson, a Logan business owner, has done the same to him in 2020. With only 38% of reported votes in the county, Hillyard conceded the race to Wilson (62%) on Wednesday.
“You know, obviously the people … we’re looking for fresh ideas, a fresh perspective and a fresh approach,” Wilson said. “And you know, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Wilson said his campaign received a lot of feedback from voters on enforcing congressional term limits, something Wilson has promised he’ll work on if elected. And while Wilson was vocal about the desire to impose term limits, Hillyard said the issue — and his opinion on it — was misinterpreted.
“I never opposed term limits,” Hillyard said. “In fact, I voted for term limits for legislators, and I’m on record for doing that. I did not like their way of getting it, and that’s requiring a constitutional convention. I’m adamantly opposed to the constitutional convention, because I think there’s too much mischief that can occur if one starts.”
While Hillyard has maintained a career over three decades, Wilson has pledged a commitment to limit himself to serving only three terms, or 12 years.
“I’m very, very honored to serve the people of Cache Valley and Rich county for these past 40 years,” said Hillyard as the outgoing state senator. “That’s an honor beyond what I could ever even express. I love this valley, I love the people here, and I’ve loved serving them.”
Hillyard said his one regret was not being able to see tax reform through.
“We have some serious problems with our revenue sources, which is even more complicated now with the COVID-19 and the revenue freefall,” he said.
As a small business owner, Wilson said in a forum debate video conference hosted by the county on June 2 that he recognizes “the importance of low taxes and small government, and as your senator I will not support increased taxes on food and gas.”
Wilson will go up against the Democrat candidate for the seat, Nancy Huntly, in the general election this November. But a Democrat hasn’t filled the District 25 seat since Karl Swan’s two-year term in 1971.
The rallying cry to oust incumbents in the valley spilled over to the seat for House of Representatives District 3, according to Rep. Val Potter. As of the latest polls, challenger Mike Petersen has a 10-percentage-point lead over Potter at 56% to 44%, respectively.
“You can say seniority doesn’t matter. But both Lyle and I were both appropriations chairs. We were in charge of budgets — we had two of the eight state budgets that we were in charge of. We were the longest-serving people,” Potter said.
Potter said his position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee and being the longest-serving house member in all of Northern Utah, as well as Hillyard’s tenure on appropriation committees, gave the incumbents a position of authority to get things done for Cache Valley.
“And that’s what I was doing,” Potter said. “And I think the voters may have missed that point, that seniority does matter. And that now we’ve got legislators with less than one term throughout Northern Utah, Cache County is not going to have the say it did.”
Peterson argued community members didn’t feel represented in those decisions. In fact, the controversial tax reform bill is what inspired him to throw his hat in the ring for representative of House District 3.
“With COVID, and then with the rioting and everything that’s going on, it’s really on people’s minds that they want to get back to, you know, the fundamentals,” he said. “They want to get back to the principles of the Constitution, and they want liberties. They want government to secure their liberty.”
Potter agreed, saying, “The voters have spoken.”
“I’ve enjoyed the service and working with the various agencies and people in Cache Valley,” he said. “I love Cache Valley. I’ve lived here most of my life, and I care about what happens in Cache Valley. It’s very, very important to me.”
Potter, like Hillyard, regrets he’ll only have the remaining six months of his term to put his experience to work, but Petersen said their contributions are much appreciated and he has gratitude for their willingness to serve “even when nobody else wanted to.”
“Both of them, for most of their adult lives, they have dedicated themselves and their families to serving the state and this community, and I hope that we’ll get past any negativity and just recognize and thank them, because, man, they stepped up to bat,” Petersen said.
Potter has not yet conceded the race, though he said he expects the results in coming in to reflect the current polls.
If Petersen’s lead continues, he will face Democrat Holly Gunther at the general election in November.
Cache County, like the rest of the state, imposed a 24-hour quarantine on ballots to protect staffers from possible exposure to the coronavirus. The next update is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. after ballots turned in on Tuesday have been processed, and final results will need to be canvassed to be official.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the county had received and processed the ballots for 37% of registered voters in the area. Zollinger said she expected to get about 50% voter turnout due to the high number of local candidates vying for a seat in the Senate and the House by the time all votes have been processed.
For the 2020 Presidential Primary election, Cache County saw a 37.4% turnout among registered voters, and in the 2018 June Primary, it was about 32.6%.