Last, Norton secure leads in House 71; state school board races with Washington County vote canvass

ST. GEORGE — The results of the Washington County Republican primary election were officially canvassed Tuesday by the Washington County Commission, resulting in incumbent Rep. Brad Last securing his thin lead against challenger Willie Billings for House District 71.

Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen presents the final results of the Republican 2020 primary election for canvassing by the Washington County Commission, St. George, Utah, July 21, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Washington County, St. George News

Washington County Clerk Auditor Kim Hafen presented the final results of the election to the County Commission for approval and noted that 38,463 votes were cast in the primary election. Of those votes, 3,850, or around 10%, were counted after the election.

“It used to be that when we had electronic machines that a bigger percent was counted on election day because all of those polling places came in,” Hafen said. “Now, as we pick up our drop boxes later in the day, those don’t get counted until typically the day after that. So about 90% were counted on election day.”

Moving on to the House 71 race, final numbers gave Billings a lead by 175 votes. However, Last led Billings by 613 votes in Iron County, which put him ahead of Billings overall. Tuesday’s official tally secured the thin lead Last gained over Billings following the June 30 election.

In the final vote tally for Washington County, Billings has secured 4,135 votes (49.7%) to Last’s 3,960 votes (47.6%).

Willie Billings, a candidate for House District 71, speaks at a debate held at the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, May 19, 2020 | File photo courtesy of Southern Utah University via YouTube, St. George News / Cedar City News

Last has served in the Utah House since 2003 and currently serves as the House Chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee.

House District 71 covers the eastern half of Washington County and a southeastern portion of Iron County along Interstate 15 just past Paragonah.

Overall, 67% of the county’s 57,000 registered Republicans participated in the primary election, Hafen said.

In addition, Hafen said there were around 23,000 unaffiliated voters, 8,300 registered Democrats and 1,500 third party voters in Washington County.

“There was some fear there would be a lot of unaffiliated and Democrats who might switch their party in time to vote for a Republican candidate,” Hafen said, referring to a social media crusade launched by former Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dabakis who called for Democrats and unaffiliated voters to switch parties in order to vote for any gubernatorial candidates in the Republican primary over candidate Greg Hughes.

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes at the 2020 Utah GOP gubernatorial candidate forum head at the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 9, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“On March 3, we had 56,000 Republicans in Washington County. As of June 30, we had 56,994,” Hafen said. “That doesn’t mean all those switched. We had new voters and those kinds of things, so there wasn’t a huge amount of (party switchover).”

Hughes, who had chosen County Commissioner Victor Iverson as his running mate, won Washington County with 37% of the vote to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s 27% and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s 26%. Former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright trailed behind with 8% of the vote, according to Washington County’s official numbers.

However, on the state level, the results were opposite for the three main gubernatorial contenders as Cox secured the Republican nomination for governor. He was followed in the votes by Huntsman in second place and Hughes in third. Cox goes on to face Democratic challenger Chris Peterson.

In the Utah Attorney General race, incumbent Sean Reyes took 53% of the Washington County Republican vote to challenger David Leavitt’s 41%. Reyes also won the statewide Republican nomination. He will be running against Democratic challenger Greg Skordas in the general election.

In the race for the Republican nomination for the Utah Board of Education’s District 15 seat, which covers Washington and Iron counties, Kristan Norton secured her lead over Scott F. Smith.

Norton is a fifth grade teacher and will replace outgoing board member Michelle Boulter who did not seek reelection. There is no Democratic challenger in the race.

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

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