Cox, Legislature will move back municipal elections for special election to replace Rep. Stewart

Jun 8, 2023, 10:25 AM

FILE - The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023. Utah lawmakers have just five days left to pass ...

FILE - The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023. Utah lawmakers have just five days left to pass hundreds of bills before time runs out for the legislative session on midnight on March 1. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox announced that he and the Legislature are pushing Utah’s municipal elections several weeks later than planned so the state can also hold a special election to fill the seat of retiring Utah Rep. Chris Stewart on the same days.

Cox’s office said Wednesday — the day Stewart submitted his official resignation letter to the governor — that primary elections will now be held on Sept. 5, and the general election will take place Nov. 21, “in order to minimize the amount of time that the House seat will be vacant and to accommodate this year’s municipal elections.”

The primary elections had previously been scheduled for Aug. 15, and the general election was set to be held Nov. 5.

A special session of the Legislature to appropriate money for the elections, change the municipal election dates and address other election-related topics will be held on Wednesday, June 14, according to Cox’s announcement.

“This timeline will ensure a smooth and efficient transition with minimal disruption to our electoral process. We understand these are unusual circumstances and appreciate the efforts of our municipalities and county clerks in accommodating this election schedule,” Cox said in a prepared statement. “Rep. Stewart has represented our state with integrity and dedication, and we’re grateful for the honorable way he’s executed his duties and represented the people of our great state.”

Multiple sources familiar with discussions in the Legislature said earlier Wednesday that a September primary and December general election were options the Legislature was eyeing. The plans were presented to House and Senate Republican caucuses in meetings on Wednesday morning.

Pushing back the municipal primary and general elections means every mayor or city council member seeking election or reelection this year will have to campaign for a longer period — and incur the cost of that extended campaigning.

But such a move could also save the state money. In this scenario, there are only two total election days for the state to pay for. It also might make county clerks’ jobs easier to administer because they’re not sending out ballots for two separate elections.

The new election dates come just over a week after news broke that Stewart planned to step down from Congress due to his wife’s health concerns. Stewart said in the letter on Wednesday he plans to resign, effective Sept. 15.

“It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve the good people of Utah in Congress. My family and I have been very blessed by this experience. I thank you for your leadership as governor and dedication to our great state,” Stewart said in his resignation letter to Cox on Wednesday.

Stewart’s letter set the clock ticking for Cox to release the special election schedule within the seven days allowed by Utah code.

Already, multiple party and elected officials have said they’ve been asked to run for the seat soon to be vacated by Stewart. One of those, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, announced Thursday she will not be running.

“After thinking through where I can contribute most, I’ve decided to continue serving on the Salt Lake County Council and working for the most innovate governor in the nation, developing important policies to strengthen Utah families,” she tweeted.

Winder Newton also serves as a senior advisor to Cox and is the director of the Office of Families.

Lawmakers meet for interim meetings on June 14. In May, Utah held a special session at the end of the interim day. Lawmakers don’t hold interim meetings in July.

Contributing: Bridger Beal-Cvetko

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Cox, Legislature will move back municipal elections for special election to replace Rep. Stewart