It appears Weber County's seven-member delegation to the Utah House will include a Democrat for the first time since 2010 — LaWanna "Lou" Shurtliff, who served in the Legislature in the 2000s.
And the number could double to two, depending on the ultimate outcome in the tightly contested race for the District 8 seat between Republican Steve Waldrip and Democrat Deana Froerer. Per unofficial results tallied Tuesday night, Froerer led Waldrip by just 25 votes, a 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent margin
Still, many ballots have yet to be processed — 18,103, to be exact, according to the Weber County Election Office — and more definitive results won't be tallied until Friday, providing a clearer picture.
"I'd say we have to wait until Friday. There's absolutely no calling that until that much more is done," Froerer said Wednesday. District 8 covers part of Ogden's East Bench and northern Ogden, the Ogden Valley and part of Harrisville.
Waldrip said he wasn't surprised at the photo finish. "We knew it'd be close," he said.
However, Shurtliff, from Ogden, was the apparent winner in the race for the District 10 Utah House seat, according to unofficial totals from Tuesday, defeating Republican Lorraine Brown by a 52.1 percent to 44.2 percent margin. Setting aside the more uncertain District 8 race, that puts her on track to be the first Democrat to win a Utah House race in Weber County since Neil Hansen won the District 9 race in 2008, serving through 2010.
Otherwise, Republicans appeared headed to victory in the contests for the five other Utah House seats serving Weber County. They include two newcomers, Kyle Andersen in District 7 and Calvin Musselman in District 9, and three incumbents, Kelly Miles in District 11, Mike Schultz in District 12 and Lee Perry in District 29.
"I'm just thrilled and grateful to the people in this area," said Andersen, appointed state representative last May to the District 7 spot after Justin Fawson stepped down, but facing election for the first time on Tuesday. District 7 covers northern Ogden and North Ogden.
Tuesday's totals factor in-person voting on Election Day and early ballots mailed in and placed in drop boxes, according to Ryan Cowley, the Weber County elections director. But many late-arriving mail-in ballots have yet to be counted and they won't be totaled until Friday, adding to the totals in the District 8 race and others. Likewise, valid provisional ballots must be added to the totals.
"Basically, Friday is going to give everybody a clearer picture," Cowley said. Yet to be counted, he said, were "bags of ballots" in his office.
If the District 8 race stays so close, there could potentially be a recount, whoever ends up in first place. State law allows for such action if the vote difference between two candidates is within 0.25 percent of the total ballots cast in the race, according to Cowley. As is, the current 25-vote difference between Froerer and Waldrip — 4,970 votes to 4,945 votes — falls just outside that 0.25-percent threshold.
Through ballots counted Tuesday, turnout countywide totaled 58.3 percent — 59,726 of 102,487 active voters in Weber County cast ballots. But with the additional ballots yet to be counted, that figure will rise.
'A REAL TOUGH CANDIDATE'
Lynda Pipkin, chairwoman of the Weber County Republican Party, offered congratulations to Shurtliff. "She's a strong candidate and well-known in the area and just a real tough candidate to beat," she said.
But she's not giving up hope that Waldrip edges past Froerer when the remaining ballots in the District 8 race are counted on Friday. "That one could flip. We're hopeful," she said.
Neil Hansen was the last Democrat elected from Weber County to a Utah House seat, winning the District 9 post in 2008, his sixth term, and serving through 2010. He lost in his re-election bid in 2010. Shurtliff had held the District 10 seat previously, from 1999 through 2008, and was last elected in 2006 to the seat, which covers southern Ogden and South Ogden. She didn't seek reelection after that last term.
Neither Shurtliff nor Brown, her GOP opponent, returned calls Wednesday seeking comment. Republican Dixon Pitcher now holds the District 10 seat, but he didn't seek reelection.
Froerer, though, hopes to be able to join Shurtliff at the capitol in Salt Lake City. "I'm very happy for her. I'd like to go down there with her," she said.
At the same time, the Utah Democratic Party lauded the preliminary victories by Shurtliff and two others in races for Utah House seats now held by GOPers, which would trim the Republican House majority to 59-16. "By electing more Democrats, Utahns voted for civility, collaboration and more balance on Capitol Hill," a statement from the party said.
Terry Schow, who lost to Brown in the Republican primary for the District 10 seat last June, waged a write-in campaign for the post, raising concerns among some GOPers that he'd pull from Brown's total. In the end, he garnered 257 votes, less than 617 vote difference between Shurtliff and Brown.
Meanwhile, other apparent winners Tuesday were awaiting results from Cowley's office on Friday before claiming victory.
Musselman said he was "cautiously optimistic" about his prospects. He garnered 53.3 percent of the votes in Tuesday's totals compared to 46.7 percent for Democrat Kathie Darby.
Miles said he felt "pretty confident" about his chances. He had garnered 54.9 percent of the unofficial vote compared to 45.1 percent for Democrat Jason Allen.