Running a grassroots campaign and aided by an unknown ally, Dana Layton knocked Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, out of his seat in the Utah House of Representatives.
As of the Herald's deadline, Layton appeared to have pulled off the victory in Tuesday's GOP primary election, leading Daw by six percentage points with 91 percent of the precincts reporting.
Layton had a little help from an unknown outside group in her victory over the four-term House member. A non-profit group known as the Proper Role of Government Education Association, managed by political operative Jason Powers, flooded Orem voters' mailboxes with hit pieces on Daw, comparing him to President Barack Obama. Other pieces mailed out by the group also hit Daw on votes dealing with Utah's immigration law.
"Going up against a fairly competent candidate and a smear machine, I think I did pretty darn good. I wish it could have been a little bit better. It is a pretty tough thing to combat when you are fighting two opponents," Daw said.
Layton is the first Republican challenger to get Daw to a primary. Daw has been challenged in every election since he took office, but always beat the challenger at the county convention -- until this year. Layton now moves on to face Democratic challenger Emmanuel Kepas in the November general election.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, will continue in his service with the state House of Representatives. Stratton, who was appointed to replace former Rep. Stephen Sandstrom in May, defeated Provo businessman Taz Murray in a squeaker, beating him by only 256 votes.
Stratton credited his victory to the hard work of his campaign and his message that improving Utah's education is key for Utah's success in the future.
"We have got to get the education right. There is a lot of good there now but there is a tremendous amount of growth ahead of us," Stratton said. "If we fail in that area we have failed in our future. We fail our children."
Stratton was seen as having a leg up on Murray after he was appointed to the Legislature. Stratton made the case that since he was already in the Legislature he would be ready to hit the ground running in the general session in January and not have to learn the ropes, like the other freshman lawmakers coming in.
Murray was unable to face Stratton in the race to fill Sandstrom's vacancy. He didn't live in Sandstrom's current House district, which will be dissolved at the end of the year, but the two live in the new district that was created in the redistricting process; that district will officially exist in January.
Also at deadline, doctor and attorney Mike Kennedy appeared ready to beat Republican party insider Sarah Nitta in the race for District 27, Rep. John Dougall's seat.
Nitta was endorsed by Dougall and also had support from Republican insiders such as Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. Nitta may have lost some support, though, as she ran attack pieces against Kennedy.
Late in the election cycle Nitta sent out attack mailers hitting Kennedy for his support of repealing the 17th Amendment in the Constitution, an amendment dealing with the election of U.S. senators. The ad ended up being a form hit piece created by Jason Powers, which was sent out about numerous candidates, including Brad Daw.
Kennedy, if he wins, will move forward to face Constitution party candidate Scott Morgan in the general election.
In Lehi, Republican voters chose Jake Anderegg over Seth Moore. Anderegg will face Democratic challenger Gabrielle Hodson next. Kay Christofferson defeated Christy Kane in the race for the GOP nomination in the American Fork-based District 56. Brian Greene topped John Glen Stevens in Pleasant Grove's District 57. Stevens had the support of the Pleasant Grove mayor and city council.
Tooele county resident Merrill Nelson was successful in his bid to unseat Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden. Merrill carried his home turf in Tooele County by doubling up on Wright, netting more than 1,100 votes to Wright's 527 in Tooele. Wright also may have been feeling the burn for being the chief sponsor of the controversial sex education bill passed by the Legislature this year that was later vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert.
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, defeated challenger Patrick Painter in Senate District 24. Okerlund beat Painter by 23 percentage points.