OGDEN — Two new faces will be joining Weber County’s delegation to the Utah legislature per unofficial election results, updated by county election officials on Friday.
John Johnson, a North Ogden Republican, is on track to victory in the race for the District 19 seat in the Utah Senate, which covers northern Ogden, North Ogden, Harrisville and Pleasant View. He would take over from Sen. Allen Christensen, the four-term incumbent who didn’t seek reelection.
Matt Gwynn, a Farr West GOPer, is headed to victory in the race for the District 29 Utah House seat, which covers Plain City, Farr West and Marriott-Slaterville plus parts of Pleasant View and Harrisville. He’d take over from Rep. Lee Perry, who didn’t seek reelection after five terms in the House.
Meanwhile, Ryan Wilcox of Ogden, a former Utah House member from Weber County, is on his way back to Salt Lake City after a six-year hiatus. The Republican is on track to victory in the race for the District 7 seat in the Utah House and would take over from Rep. Kyle Andersen. Andersen didn’t seek reelection after just one term in the post, which covers much of North Ogden and Pleasant View and northern Ogden.
The trio — who offered up their visions on Friday as vote counting winds down — would join six other incumbent Weber County legislators heading to wins in their races, according to vote totals thus far. The six are District 20 Sen. Gregg Buxton, District 8 Rep. Steve Waldrip, District 9 Rep. Calvin Musselman, District 10 Rep. LaWanna Shurtliff, District 11 Rep. Kelly Miles and District 12 Rep. Mike Schultz. Shurtliff is a Democrat and the other members of the county’s legislative delegation are Republicans.
Johnson alluded to the deep partisan divide in the country as a concern. He’s a Utah State University professor and entrepreneur and this was his first bid for public office.
“I think people are tired of this. I think we need to get back to talking to one another and working across the aisle,” Johnson said in a phone interview. After the new vote totals released Friday, Johnson led Democrat Katy Owens of Summit County, 25,548 votes to 19,260, a 57%-43% margin. District 19 extends beyond Weber County into parts of Summit and Morgan counties.
Pursuing “commonsense” education reform will also be big for Johnson, he said, with a focus on scaling back state mandates on schools. “I would like to see fewer mandates at the state level to local leaders in education,” Johnson said, with more leeway on spending given to the local level instead.
He would also put a bigger focus on encouraging young people to seek work in the trades. “Not every student is destined to go to college. They don’t need to,” he said.
He offered a pro-business outlook, expressing distaste with the government practice of providing private businesses financial incentives to relocate. “I think markets work,” Johnson said.
Gwynn is a member of the Farr West City Council and a patrol sergeant in the Roy Police Department. He far outdistanced the other two candidates for the District 29 post, Democrat Kerry Wayne and Tanner Greenhalgh of the United Utah Party. With Friday’s new totals, Gwynn had 17,013 votes, 78.6% of the total, compared to 3,695 for Wayne, 18.3%, and 673 for Greenhalgh, 3.1%.
“The weight on my shoulders is becoming apparent already. I want to do the right thing for the district, for Utah,” Gwynn said. District 29 extends north of Weber County into Box Elder County, covering part of Brigham City.
As a police officer, Gwynn plans to put a focus on public safety, singling out the need to revisit judicial reform measures previously approved. He also touted the import of addressing law enforcement officers’ compensation packages to assure a pool of candidates.
Education is also important to Gwynn, more specifically, addressing the needs of teachers to keep them on the job and to attract new recruits.
In a message to the Standard-Examiner, Wilcox sounded a message of inclusivity. He held a sizable lead over Grant Protzman, with 11,782 votes, 64.6% of the total, compared to 6,467, or 35.4%, for the Democrat.
“It is my most sincere hope that we may engage in this experiment in representative government together. ‘Representation that Listens’ isn’t just a tag line. It’s who I am and who I aspire to be as your representative. The most meaningful legislation I’ve ever worked on resulted directly from that commitment to listen to real concerns right here in our community,” Wilcox said. He also said he’d be reaching out to Protzman to discuss some of the issues brought up by District 7 residents during the campaign.
Wilcox held the District 7 post from 2009-2014, when he left to join as a staffer of U.S. Sen. Mike Lee. He’s since left Lee’s staff and now works for Intermountain Healthcare in community relations. Protzman also previously held the District 7 post, from 1987 through 1996.
As the sole Democrat in Weber County’s legislative delegation, Shurtliff said there may be a new dynamic when the legislative session starts. Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox won in gubernatorial voting and will take over from Gov. Gary Herbert, who didn’t run for reelection.
She expects dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic will be a big focus. “I still think COVID is going to be on the front burner,” she said.