Lots of freshmen in the Utah House?

In January 2013, there will be more freshmen in the Utah House than at any other time in the past 20 years.

From a glance over the election results, it looks like there will be 20 new faces in Utah’s House of Representatives when it convenes in January 2013. That’s 27% of the 75-member chamber. As a result, in January 2013, there will be more freshmen in the Utah House than at any other time in the past 20 years. After the 1992 elections, the 1993 session opened to a chamber that consisted of 36% freshmen.

Here’s a chart to put those numbers into perspective, though. For each odd-numbered year since 1901, it shows how many freshmen were in the room when the gavel called the chamber into session. 27% freshmen may seem high when compared to the past 20 years, but it seems low when compared to the period from 1901 to 1993. In fact, there were only four occasions prior to 1993 when fewer than 27% of Utah’s Representatives were freshmen: 1975 (20%), 1985 (20%), 1989 (23%), and 1991 (25%).

I’ve written before about the decline of turnover in the Utah Legislature. See here or here.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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3 Responses to Lots of freshmen in the Utah House?

  1. Daniel B. says:

    How much of an effect do you think the ambition for higher office had on increasing the number of freshmen legislators? I’m thinking about how the legislature has lost people like Wimmer, Liljenquist and Herrod in bids for higher office, as well as Romero and McAdams for Mayor.

    • Adam Brown says:

      There are 20 new faces in the House. Offhand, I can think of 5 who left the House hoping for higher office: Clark, Wimmer, Herrod, Sandstrom, Dougall. Maybe there are more that I’m forgetting.

      I would probably pin it on redistricting, though, not on higher office. After all, redistricting would have forced either Herrod or Sandstrom to leave regardless, since that part of Utah County had to lose a seat. And Clark and Wimmer probably wouldn’t have sought US House seats if not for (Congressional) redistricting. So really that’s just Dougall who would have left the House to pursue higher office if not for redistricting.

      Redistricting also forced either Cox or Fisher out, since they were put into a district together. (As it happened, Fisher beat Cox on Tuesday.)

      Plus, redistricting forced the Democrats to draw themselves one fewer district in Salt Lake County, which may have contributed to Litvack’s decision to retire.

      And then there’s Christine Watkins, who lost her reelection bid on Tuesday. Her new district looks very different from her old one. They added in Duchesne and took away the portions of Emery and San Juan counties she used to represent.

      So I’d blame redistricting for the slight uptick in turnover.

      • Adam Brown says:

        For the record, these are the incumbents who lost:

        Fred Cox (R) and Janice Fisher (D) were drawn into the same district. Cox lost to Fisher in November.

        Butterfield (R), Daw (R), Doughty (D), Hendrickson (D), Newbold (R), and Wright (R) failed to win renomination.

        Watkins (D) lost to a general election challenger in November.

        Wimmer (R), Sandstrom (R), and Herrod (R) left to run for Congress. Sumsion (R) ran for governor. Dougall (R) ran for state auditor. (Only Dougall was successful from this bunch.)

        Frank (R), Vickers (R), Painter (R), and Harper (R) left the House to run for state Senate. Vickers and Harper were successful.

        Litvack (D) and Kiser (R) chose to retire rather than run after being drawn into districts together with fellow incumbents from their own respective parties.

        Morley (R) chose to retire from legislative service.

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