With only two Republican candidates on the ballot, voters residing in the northern parts of Utah County cast their votes for the state’s House District 56 seat leading up to Tuesday’s primary election.
Merrilee Boyack announced her campaign to replace incumbent state Rep. Kay Christofferson in February.
As of Wednesday morning, Christofferson held an 18% lead with 59% of the overall vote. Boyack, holding 41% of the vote, received 2,896 of the 7,063 votes counted by 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Christofferson ended primary election night with a similar lead. By late Tuesday evening, Christofferson led the race with over 59% of the vote, or 3,869 individual votes. Boyack trailed behind with over 40% of the vote, amassing 2,669 individual votes that had been tallied so far.
"I am excited to see the preliminary results of the Primary election and am confident in that the numbers will be consistent until the final votes are counted," Christofferson said in a statement. "I appreciate the approval by residents of District 56 of my past service, and the confidence they have shown me in representing their interests for the next legislative term."
With this opportunity, he said, he will continued his advancement to the general election, where is confident he will succeed. Moving forward from November, Christofferson said he will be looking to develop an efficient government budget, provide transportation solutions to accomodate growth, and promote free-market solutions to the recent recession. Additionally, Christofferson said he wants to protect Utah from federal overreach.
While Utah is a great state and leader to many others, he said there are still issues that need to be addressed in order to continue to progress and improve.
"The COVID-19 virus is one challenge we still have, but I believe Utah has prepared financially for serious impacts to our economy, and we will find solutions to protect our health and the economy," he said.
While polling locations continued to accept ballots, Christofferson said he felt at peace with the choices he had made during his campaign.
“A lot of the pressure is off,” he said. “I’m wondering where it’s going to go and whether I’ve done all that I can do, but I’m not too nervous. It’s late enough that it’s in the hands of the voters.”
Boyack, however, said she was making calls until the very end, feeling very confident in the work she and her team have done so far. The team’s outreach efforts in particular, she said, have had a significantly positive payoff.
If given the opportunity, Boyack said her campaign has an incredible ground game that she would love to continue into November.
“We worked very hard walking door-to-door, calling people, doing personal outreach,” she said. “I think that will make a significant difference.”
Throughout his campaign, Christofferson said the biggest strengths of his campaign thus far have been his experience. Christofferson has represented District 56 — which includes Lehi, American Fork and Highland — since 2013.
Since the beginning of his time in office, Christofferson had served on several committees, including the Federalism Commission and the Legislative Policy Summit. He is currently the chair of the Legislature’s House Transportation Committee.
“I’ve been in the position a few terms,” he said. “I know the agencies, I know the budgets of those agencies that I work with, and I know the process.”
Additionally, Christofferson said his campaign has remained clean and positive, which he believes voters can appreciate.
On the other hand, Christofferson wished he could have had more time to meet with constituents, he said. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Christofferson said he didn’t have the opportunity to visit with many residents and to discuss their concerns.
It has been interesting, he said, to see the shift in the methods of campaigning across the board since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Social distancing requirements and limits on the sizes of social gatherings have made this campaign more personal than campaigns in the past.
“COVID-19 really changed the game,” she said. “I’ve run for office several times before, but dealing with the changing dynamic of COVID-19 was very challenging. We had to be a lot more creative. We had to rely on phone calling a lot more.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, results for each of the several races happening across the county are expected to be delayed as mail-in ballots were able to be sent in through Tuesday. Mail-in ballots also are being quarantined for 12-24 hours for added protection.
Utah County Elections Director Rozan Mitchell said this could mean results are left up in the air for two to three weeks, especially for the gubernatorial race or in other closely contested races.
Win or lose, Boyack said, tonight will be a celebration of the end of an active and hard-working campaign whether results are announced tonight or in the coming weeks.
If the votes fall in favor of Boyack, she said she isn’t slowing down. She will continue to reach out to voters and continue discussions during the campaign through November and onward, if allowed.
Likewise, she said, Boyack won’t be backing down from continuing to rally for lower taxes, limited government and pro-life legislation even if votes do not fall her way.
“I am committed to being a voice to residents,” she said. “I will continue to work on these things in the Legislature whether I’m elected or not.”
If successful, Christofferson will hit the ground running, he said.
“I’ve been holding off on some legislation that I have been wanting to look at,” he said. “I would press forward on that.”
Christofferson would also continue to push, through his position on the Federalism Commission, for Utah to get fair compensation in regards to payment in lieu of taxes for education and other government services, he said. This would greatly benefit rural parts of the state.
To be reelected, Christofferson said, would be an incredible honor.
“I really appreciate voters’ trust in my service and the things I have done in the past,” he said. “If we win, it will be a vote of confidence that they feel like I’ve represented them well, and that they trust my judgment.”
Christofferson spent election night having a barbecue with a small group of friends and family, and Boyak is planning to spend the evening with her family.
Boyack ended the Utah County Republican Party Convention with over 62% of the vote, becoming the party’s nominee. The last time Christofferson’s seat was up for grabs was on Nov. 6, 2018, when Christofferson received 100% of the 11,815 votes for his current position.
The candidate with the most amount of votes from Tuesday’s state primary election will face Kate Walters, a House District 56 candidate for the United Utah Party, on Nov. 3.