Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Utah State Senator Chris Buttars Thinks He Did Well At The Republican Caucuses, But Challenger Gary Armstrong And Others Think Differently
Embattled Utah State Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) told KTVX Channel 4 that he did "great" at Tuesday night's (March 25th, 2008) neighborhood political caucus meetings, but many of the 267 delegates elected in Buttars' Senate District 10 suggest otherwise. At the May 3rd Salt Lake County Republican Convention they will help pick which candidate will appear on the November ballot. Buttars remains in political hot water because of comments he made on the senate floor last month, and now has seven candidates challenging his re-election bid.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that at the Republican caucus in West Jordan, where Sen. Chris Buttars sat along the wall with more than 60 of his neighbors, he didn't speak and no one mentioned his election. In addition, no mention was made of the Buttars bluster at this neighborly caucus - held at the home of Carmi and Judy McDougal for the past 25 years.
"I think Senator Buttars is a good man who did a really stupid thing when he said what he did. He cares a lot about people and about our country," said Judy McDougal in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
But Republican Gary Armstrong, who is emerging as Buttars' leading opponent, demurs. "With what happened this last year - the black baby quote and his subsequent actions - Buttars lost all ability to represent me because no one would affiliate with him after that," Armstrong said. "It took him out of the game."
And on Monday March 24th, a Dan Jones poll, reported by the Deseret Morning News and KSL, reflected the more pessimistic point of view. Out of 208 registered voters polled in District 10, 67 percent said they prefer that Buttars not be re-elected. In fact, 53 percent said that Buttars "definitely" should not be sent back to the Legislature. In contrast, only 23 percent said "definitely" or "probably" when asked if Buttars should be re-elected. To add insult to injury, only 32 percent of Republican respondents want Buttars re-elected.
Historically, says Jones, an incumbent candidate wants to get higher than 40 percent in any "naked re-elect" question — like the question the newspaper asked about Buttars and other legislative incumbents. Being above 50 percent is considered good.
Buttars faces four Republicans who are trying to unseat him within his own party. In addition to Armstrong, there's Trevor Darby, Kathy Hilton and Wendy Smith-DeRusha. Democrat John Rendell also filed for the Senate District 10 race, as did two candidates from the Constitution Party, Steve Maxfield and Randy Lee Browning.
The Salt Lake County Republican Convention in May will whittle down the GOP field to either one or two candidates. If one candidate fails to get 60 percent of the delegate vote — and thus win the nomination outright — the top two vote-getters will face each other in a closed GOP primary the end of June. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Rendell and one of the two Constitution Party candidates.
And there's one more issue. There are two separate polls being run by Petition Online. One petition, HERE, is for those who want to express opposition to Chris Buttars. The other petition, HERE, is for those who want to express support for Buttars. Even with the spamming on those petitions, there is a clear-cut trend; six-to-one against Buttars. Twenty years ago, it would have been six-to-one in Buttars' favor; it shows how seriously compromised and degraded American culture and values have become.
So who will survive the May 3rd Republican county convention? First, I don't believe anyone will get the 60 percent necessary to avoid a primary - the situation is too dynamic. Here's my call; the two survivors will be Gary Armstrong and Chris Buttars for a June primary, as some disaffected people will swing back to Buttars. Trevor Darby has an outside shot, since he at least has a website. But Armstrong jumped off the line early and is campaigning assertively. He also has good qualifications and an electable platform.
And Armstrong brings up an inescapably practical point; note the phrase "no one would affiliate with him after that". What that means, in plain English, is because the Salt Lake-dominated establishment has decided that Buttars has become politically "radioactive", that he might have a hard time getting legislation through the Senate - including legislation directly critical to the needs of District 10. Unfortunately in politics, perception sometimes supersedes reality.
The political lynching of Chris Buttars, particularly by the liberal Salt Lake establishment, has been unwarranted and hypocritical. But do District 10 residents want to draw their line in the sand around Chris Buttars, or should they wait for a more defensible issue or position? A tough call for those folks, and I wish them well in making the decision.