Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Utah General Election 2007: Democrat Ralph Becker Cruises To Salt Lake City Mayoral Victory, Voucher Referendum Crashes And Burns

With just about all votes counted, Salt Lake residents decided to keep the mayor's slot Democratic, as they have for the past three decades. As predicted by several polls before the election, Utah's Democratic House Minority Leader Ralph Becker was chosen over Republican Dave Buhler by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Media Stories:

Deseret News report on mayoral election.
Deseret News report on State Referendum 1 (vouchers)
Salt Lake Tribune report on mayoral election.
Salt Lake Tribune report on State Referendum 1.
Salt Lake Tribune report on Salt Lake Proposition 1 (emergency services).
Salt Lake Tribune report on city council races.
Complete KSL Channel 5 election coverage.

Becker began his mad dash to victory shortly before the September 11th primary election when, with only week to go before that election, he bolted from the pack and led the field. This cost another Democrat, Jenny Wilson, and allowed Republican Dave Buhler to finish second, setting up a more traditional Democratic-Republican matchup in what was officially a non-partisan race.

Both candidates ran relatively gentlemanly campaigns. From the get-go, Becker has pledged to tone down the sometimes inflammatory rhetoric from City Hall which was so characteristic of outgoing mayor Rocky Anderson, and to bridge the political divide which exists between Salt Lake and the rest of the state. Salt Lake clearly has become a "blue" city in a "red" state. Dave Buhler ran a competent campaign but never really had a chance, although being LDS himself, he undoubtedly corralled the bulk of the Mormon vote (pre-election polls showed him with as much as 75% of the Mormon vote).

In the City Council races, two incumbents went down. Luke Garrott dumped incumbent Nancy Saxton by 15 percentage points. I smelled this coming - Saxton was increasingly criticized for being divisive and accomplishing little of substance during her stewardship. In addition, migrating from the mayor's race back to the city council race made her look opportunistic. However, I though Garrott's victory margin would be much narrower. Impressive job by a first-time candidate who started out with zero public name recognition.

In District 2, incumbent Van Blair Turner came from behind to defeat J. Michael Clara, while in District 6, J.T. Martin defeated Roger J. McConkie for the privilege of succeeding Dave Buhler.

Salt Lake Proposition 1, which called for the construction of five new emergency services facilities in three different locations throughout Salt Lake City at a cost of $192 million, went down to a narrow defeat. I also smelled the possibility of a narrow defeat here - the $192 million would generate "sticker shock". Police Chief Chris Burbank did his best to defend the proposition, and I recommended an affirmative vote, but Rocky Anderson's last minute volte-face against the proposition may have sabotaged it and sealed its doom. Of course, it's not the first time Rocky Anderson's big yap has thrown a spanner in the works; in the weekend before the September primary election, Anderson wrote a Salt Lake Tribune column in which he questioned Jenny Wilson's prospective ability to be both a mayor and a mother simultaneously, and that may have knocked Wilson from a second to a third-place finish in the primary election.

The lesson learned here, which has been repeated in other cities, is that you don't load a whole bunch of projects into a super-bond and expect it to pass. They should have bonded only the downtown facilities first, then gone for the Sugar House and Glendale facilities a couple of years later.

And finally, there was State Referendum 1, the voucher initiative. The decorum characteristic of nearly every other political race during this election cycle soon vanished like morning dew before a hot Salt Lake summer sun. This quickly evolved into one of the most bare-knuckle campaigns I've seen out of Utah in quite a while. It first turned nasty when pro-voucher forces initiated a push-poll campaign to try and scare voters into supporting the initiative. Anti-voucher forces fired back with the customary class-warfare rhetoric, claiming that the voucher initiative was educational welfare for the rich. The Utah Education Association started pouring untold money into the "anti" campaign. In the end, the antis carried the day, as 62.1% of the voters statewide rejected the initiative.

Click HERE for complete Salt Lake County election results.
Click HERE to get results from other Utah counties.
Click HERE for a county-by-county breakdown on the Referendum 1 vote.

Here are the results from the Salt Lake City races (100% reporting):


RALPH BECKER 25880 63.60%
DAVE BUHLER 14693 36.11%
Write-in Votes 116 0.29%


VAN BLAIR TURNER 1234 53.30%
J. MICHAEL CLARA 1072 46.31%
Write-in Votes 9 0.39%


LUKE GARROTT 2608 57.61%
NANCY SAXTON 1905 42.08%
Write-in Votes 14 0.31%


J T MARTIN 4676 53.20%
ROGER J. MCCONKIE 4080 46.42%
Write-in Votes 33 0.38%

SALT LAKE CITY PROPOSITION NUMBER 1 (Police and Fire Facilities)

AGAINST 20075 50.37%
FOR 19784 49.63%

But the best part of this election - delenda est Rocky (no more Rocky Anderson).

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