Race for Utah House District 71 shows thin margin favoring the incumbent

Composite image. Photos of Brad Last (left) and Willie Billings (right) from debate for House District 71 held at the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, May 19, 2020 | Background photo by 3dfoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus. Debate photos courtesy of Southern Utah University via YouTube, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — Less than one day after the polls closed in the Beehive State’s primary election, early results show Rep. Brad Last R-Hurricane, the incumbent representative for Utah House District 71, with a slim lead over his conservative rival, William Billings.

Rep. Brad last, R-Hurricane, speaking on the House floor of the Utah Legislature, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 3, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

The latest numbers as of 11 a.m. Wednesday have Last leading Billings by 506 votes, 52.66% over 47.34%. By county, Last leads in Iron County by 565 votes, and Billings leads in Washington County by 59 votes.

Last has represented District 71 since 2003. St. George News attempted to reach the incumbent for comment, but as of publication of this report, there has been no response.

Although the vote count Wednesday morning is not the final tally, Billings told St. George News on Tuesday that he is proud of the campaign he ran.

“I think we’ve done the work to win,” Billings said. “We’ve covered every house in the district with myself knocking on at least 400-500 doors.”

If Billings pulls out the win over the incumbent, he pledged to surround himself with “like-minded people” to govern.

If the vote ultimately goes to Last, Billings said he will support his party’s candidate in the general election.

“As a voter, I may disagree with some of his decisions,” Billings said. “But if he wins, I will support him. I love the guy.”

Although Billings considers Last a friend and respects his work, he said there are differences in their approach to governing.

In this February 2020 file photo, William Billings speaks to a crowd at the Quail Lake Estates in Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 10, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“One of the biggest differences is the bloated government with a $20 billion budget,” Billings said. “I absolutely know there are places we can cut rather than raise any type of tax on our citizens.”

In this time in government, it may require “urgent” budget cuts to survive.

“This is a cause for redoing the state’s budget and cutting out the waste and bloated nature of government,” he said. “Yes, the Legislature is making cutbacks right now because of the urgent situation of COVID, but I also call raising any tax an urgent situation.”

Billings said Utah already taxes too much.

“We have plenty of revenue,” he said. “We need to be willing what every family needs to do and find a way to live within our budget.”

Election results will be officially certified on July 27, 2020.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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