"Stick A Fork In Keith Christenson, He's Done"
Special Note: Click HERE for information on when, where, and how to vote in the Salt Lake County Primary Elections on Tuesday September 11th. Note that the location of some polling stations may have changed this year.
With only four days left before the Salt Lake County primary election on September 11th, two polls have emerged which show a virtual statistical dead heat between three of the candidates. First, the results of a new Salt Lake Tribune poll, reported in the Salt Lake Tribune.
The survey, conducted Sept. 5-6 by Washington D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., queried 625 voters likely to cast ballots in the primary. The margin of error is 4 percent.
The new poll shows that Democrat Ralph Becker has charged into the lead - but by only one percentage point. Becker was the choice of 26% of the respondents, while Republican Dave Buhler has 25%. Democratic legacy candidate Jenny Wilson, the daughter of former Salt Lake mayor Ted Wilson, has 24%. The last of the big four, Keith Christensen, who switched his affiliation from Republican to Independent and got the endorsement nod (a.k.a "Kiss of Death") from departing Mayor Rocky Anderson, is far back in the pack with 11%.
Of the remaining five candidates, only J.P. Hughes registers, with 1%. The other four each have less than 1%.
The numbers show a 10-point surge by Becker, who had 16% of likely voters in the Tribune's August poll. Buhler jumped a percentage point from the last survey, while Wilson dropped a percentage point. In a noteworthy development, the percentage of undecideds dropped from 24% to 13%. This strongly implies that most of the undecideds are migrating to Becker. Another noteworthy finding: Dave Buhler was overwhelmingly dominant among LDS voters.
So for those of us who are "handicapping", how do we break the tie? One way is to look at the "negative vote", or the percentage of those who rated a candidate unfavorably. Dave Buhler had the highest unfavorable percentage at 29%, Jenny Wilson had a negative rating of only 15%, while Ralph Becker's negative rating was only at 6%. Keith Christensen's negative number was 21 percent; combined with only 11% support, this reinforces his also-ran status and spells the effective end of his campaign. It's over for Keith Christensen.
Buhler's 29% negative number might lead people to believe he's also out of it, but he's the only Republican in what is now the top three. In contrast, Becker and Wilson are both Democrats, fighting for the same constituency. Furthermore, Becker is on a roll, while Wilson is sputtering. Furthermore, Becker is perceived as relatively moderate, while Wilson, with her flagrant pandering to the gay community, is perceived as more radical. The latter may be responsible for Wilson's higher negative rating. The combination of all these factors would indicate a strong possibility that Becker and Buhler will be the top two choices on September 11th, to duke it out in the general election on November 6th. Unfortunately, for Republicans, history will be working against them; Salt Lake hasn't elected a Republican mayor in three decades.
The second poll, just released and aired on KSL Channel 5 and reported in the Deseret Morning News, shows virtually the same pattern, although first and third swapped. Jenny Wilson leads with 26%, Dave Buhler is second with 24%, Ralph Becker third with 22%, and Keith Christenson fourth with 12%, just barely edging out Don't Know who had 11%. Five percent chose another candidate. This poll was conducted by Dan Jones, and had a margin of error of 4.4% and a sample size of 500 respondents.
Looking at both polls together, I still think Buhler will be one of the finalists. The real battle is likely to be between Becker and Wilson. However, I remind you: Becker is on the move up, while Wilson is static.
One final variable is turnout, which may prove to be the key in Tuesday's primary. The close race could swell the turnout, and it may be decided by which two of the three can get more of their supporters out to the ballot box. Historically, though, less than 20 percent of registered capital voters typically go to the polls in off-year mayoral primaries.
If you live in Salt Lake and still need some more help making up your mind, I suggest you visit the Salt Lake City Weekly website to read detailed profiles on the mayoral and city council candidates alike, and also visit Pete Ashdown's Journal, where he has posted the results of some extensive interviews with the four candidates. Ashdown himself is endorsing Ralph Becker, which, with his extensive legislative experience as the State House Minority Leader, is not a bad choice. If I lived within the Salt Lake City limits, Becker would be my second choice. Personally, I prefer Dave Buhler, I think we need some more social conservatism in the mix.