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Four Republican men running for the Legislature this year already have essentially won their races — because no one bothered to file against them by the deadline last week.

The lucky four are Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan — who has served in the Legislature for 32 years, the longest in the state; Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain; Rep. Dean Sanpei, R-Provo; and newcomer David Lifferth, a Republican also from Eagle Mountain who soon will represent the newly drawn House District 2.

"As the deadline approached, I kept checking the Internet on my smart phone to see if anyone filed. I made a final check about a half-hour after the deadline, and then celebrated," Lifferth said. "I felt a sigh of relief. But then I was kind of disappointed because I wouldn't need all the campaign plans I made."

Lifferth later posted on his Web page a quote from Sun Tzu's Art of War, "The best battle is the battle that is won without being fought."

The winners say they worked hard to scare off competition and still plan to work hard with voters and political convention delegates to represent them well and keep their political futures bright.

Lifferth, for example, said he started early to contact past GOP delegates, GOP precinct officials, area office holders and as many voters as possible in the area.

"I let everyone know I was running and talked to them about the issues," he said. He says his early start and organization may have scared off others or convinced potential rivals that they are like-minded.

"I still plan to talk to new county delegates, hold cottage meetings and carry on a dialogue with voters to fine-tune my stands," Lifferth said. Madsen could not be reached for comment. Lifferth expressed surprise that the House and Senate members from Eagle Mountain will face no competition.

Hillyard said he has run unopposed several times in his long career, with his success over time apparently discouraging new challengers.

"I really do enjoy campaigning, meeting with people and talking issues. But I don't like the negativism that sometimes occurs," he said. Hillyard adds that without the need to raise money for things such as lawn signs, he can spend his time "meeting with people in more meaningful ways to get feedback."

Sanpei, who is seeking a second House term, guesses he is unopposed because "my constituents are generally happy with my efforts" and because he "tried hard to keep myself accessible to everyone."

He said running unopposed now is much different than two years ago when he "had very strong and credible opponents challenge me from both the right and the left."

Even without opponents, he said, "I approach holding office as if I'm always running a campaign. I will raise money. I will be talking with constituents. I will be meeting with delegates. I will be doing surveys. I will be doing newsletters. I will be accessible, and I will be preparing for the next election cycle" — and maybe scaring off opponents by doing that. —

Legislative candidates by the numbers

91 • Legislative seats up for election: 16 in the Senate and 75 in the House.

76 • Incumbents seeking re-election: 13 in the Senate and 63 in the House.

288 • Total candidates running: 45 for Senate and 288 for House, from six parties.

Four • Running unopposed: two in the Senate and two in the House.