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Democrats lost three Utah House seats Tuesday that they initially thought they had won on election night, the official election canvass in Salt Lake County revealed.
That gives Republicans a 63-12 super majority in the House the second-biggest margin in the last 80 years.
In House District 30 in West Valley City, former Republican Rep. Fred Cox regained his former seat by defeating Democrat Mike Lee by 47 votes, with 50.38 percent of the vote. Election night counts had shown Lee with a 108-vote edge. The seat was vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Janice Fisher.
In House District 31 also in West Valley, Republican Sophia DiCaro upset four-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Larry Wiley by 195 votes or 52.3 percent of the vote. Wiley was ahead by 33 votes on election night.
In House District 44 in Murray, Republican Bruce Cutler defeated Democrat Christine Passey by 53 votes, with a 48.5 percent plurality. On election night, Passey had led by 152 votes. That seat had been vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Tim Cosgrove
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said results flipped after her office counted 29,042 by-mail ballots that arrived after election night. It also counted 9,491 provisional ballots cast on Election Day by people who had moved, or who participated in an Election Day registration pilot project.
Swensen added that none of the margins are close enough by law to permit a recount, so the current results are final. The results for all county races are available on the county clerk's website.
Before the election, Republicans held a 61-14 margin in the House. Democrats lost the three seats in Salt Lake County where results flipped Tuesday, but picked up a rural seat that covers Carbon, Emery and Duchesne counties with the election of former Rep. Brad King. The net loss of two Democratic seats now gives Republicans a 63-12 margin, or 84 percent of the seats.
That is the second-biggest Republican majority in the last 80 years, behind only an 85.5 percent majority in 1967 when the House split was 59-10 with fewer overall seats.
A celebrating Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, tweeted: "Will the last Dem in the #utleg minority caucus room please shut off the lights?"
Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, tweeted back to him that "gloating doesn't become you." Weiler then responded, "Sorry, Carol. Just excited for some friends."
Retiring House Democratic leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, lamented the losses, and said it will worsen an already tough situation for Democrats.
"We clearly need to work harder at being able to connect with people in a meaningful way. We love Utah, we care about Utah," and must communicate that better to voters, she said.
Also, she said the close margins should show everyone that her or his vote is important. "Every single vote counts. Every person matters in our democracy. Every voice has meaning."
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans trumpeted picking up the three extra House seats saying, "Our candidates' messages resonated with the voters of these districts and they showed that Utah voters appreciate honesty and hard work."
He added, "The party is excited about new Republican representation from the west side of Salt Lake County and looks forward to the many legislative accomplishments our newly-elected officials will achieve."
Cutler, one of the new winning candidates, said he "went through the emotions of having lost and the anticipation of the count coming today that I would lose as well," but the gloom lifted with his surprising win. Cutler, a software engineer, said when he received a text message at work saying he won,"I went yeah!" and made others look.
"It was a great feeling. Obviously, I also feel sorry for my opponent who was excited to win [initially] and now has to go through what I went through" on election night.
"I'm looking forward to serving the people of this district," Cutler said. And with the close vote, he added, "Obviously, I will have to serve people from both sides of the aisle."