After eight years of serving in the Utah State Senate, Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, announced Wednesday that she will not seek reelection.
While Henderson had originally filed with the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office on Friday, the first day political candidates were able to file, the Republican senator said in a Facebook post Monday morning that she had withdrawn as a candidate for reelection in Senate District 7, which covers much of south and west Utah County.
“This was a difficult decision,” Henderson said, “but I’m confident in the leaders of our state and the resiliency of our community.”
Henderson did not give a reason for withdrawing, but said the “trust you (constituents) have placed in me to be your voice and your representative in the Utah Senate has been humbling.”
Henderson continued, “You have disagreed from time to time with the way I voted, but I have always tried my best to listen to you and use a principled approach to protect freedom, increase government transparency, and limit the intrusion of government into our lives.”
Henderson was a prominent figure throughout this year’s legislative session, which ended last Friday, and received national attention for her bill to decriminalize bigamy and polygamy in Utah. The bill, Senate Bill 102, passed unanimously through the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House in late February.
Henderson joined Utah’s five other women senators, mainly Democrats, in walking off the Senate floor in protest of a bill that would require women seeking abortions to receive an ultrasound 72 hours prior to the procedure.
“I am very pro-life,” Henderson told the Senate last Tuesday. “I always vote for pro-life legislation. I do get concerned when we maybe go a little bit too far.”
Despite passing through both chambers, the House voted last Thursday to hold the bill, meaning it didn’t pass this year’s session.
Some on social media, including Rep. Jeff Stenquist, R-Draper, speculated that Henderson’s announcement indicates she could be running for higher office.
“Predicting that we’ll see an announcement soon that she’s running for Lieutenant Governor,” Stenquist tweeted.
When contacted for comment, Henderson referred to her statement on Facebook and said she would “have more information in the coming days.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, four other candidates had filed to run for Henderson’s Senate District 7 seat, including Spanish Fork Republican Rep. Mike McKell, who currently represents House District 66 and withdrew as a candidate for reelection.
Other candidates running for Henderson’s Senate seat include Scott Neilson, a Republican, and Emily Bergeson, who is running as a member of the moderate United Utah Party.
Provo resident Flor de Maria Sulbaran, who is running against Henderson as a Republican, said she was caught off guard by the senator’s announcement.
“I feel surprised,” Sulbaran said in an interview on Wednesday. “I don’t know why she’s not running but I wish her the best.”
Sulbaran, a naturalized United States citizen who is originally from Venezuela, said she is running to bring representation to conservative Latinos in the state.
“Many people believe that there are no conservatives in the Latino community, and it’s not true,” Sulbaran said, adding that she supports President Donald Trump “100%.”
Such representation is desperately needed at the state level, the candidate said.
“I realized there is a gap in the Utah Legislature,” said Sulbaran. “There … (are no) female Republican conservative Latinas. The Latino voice is not represented there. So I think it’s time for having a voice like mine.”
Sulbaran said she opposed Henderson’s decision to protest the ultrasound abortion bill and that she would have supported the legislation.
“I am critical of this,” Sulbaran said. “I’m not saying that she’s a bad person, but yes, I do not agree with that decision … (or) with the decision of the other Republican female senator (Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden)who joined her.”