Republicans dominated the first-ever partisan elections for Utah’s state school board.
With the early results from Tuesday, eight of the nine open seats on the Board of Education showed strong holds for members of the GOP. Even in the tightest race — for District 3 — the Republican candidate had a 24-point lead over his opponent.
Carol Barlow Lear, an incumbent, was the only Democrat to secure a win, facing no contest for reelection to a second term for District 7.
Whether to allow education candidates to run with a party affiliation was a source of serious contention for years, including a high-stakes lawsuit and several bills from the state Legislature pushing for the change. The law finally went into effect for this election.
From the start, seven times as many Republicans filed to run as Democrats for the board that oversees public K-12 education in the state. That’s at least in part because Utah is deeply red overall. The districts for the Utah Board of Education also split Salt Lake County, the bluest part of the state.
But in several of the contests, no Democrats decided to enter the race. In five of the open seats, only Republicans ran, and they had no competition in the general election Tuesday.
In the three competitive races, too — for Districts 3, 11 and 12 — only one was a showdown between a Republican and a Democrat. And the Republican, Matt Hymas, who is the high school director at American Preparatory Academy’s West Valley City Campus II, appears to have won handily with 62% of the vote, according to unofficial tallies.
Meanwhile, Natalie Cline, who describes herself as a mother and grandmother who believes in “faith, family and freedom,” beat out an unaffiliated candidate in District 11. And James Moss Jr., a partner at a Salt Lake City law firm, captured 77% of the vote in District 12 over a competitor from the Constitution Party.
The results are not final yet, with ballots still being counted over the next two weeks.
The Utah Board of Education has 15 seats total, but only about half are up for election every two years to stagger the terms. After this first partisan election, more than 50% of the seats will now be overtly conservative.
Seven of the nine seats that were on the ballot, too, went to fresh faces — so the board will also be largely full of new members. Lear, the Democrat, and Republican Janet Cannon in District 8 were the only incumbents to keep their seats.