Being a left-leaning newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune traditionally prefers Democrats over Republicans whenever it's time to hand out endorsements, although those media endorsements aren't as highly coveted as they once were (see the sparse response to the Deseret News candidate survey as an example).
However, the Tribune also attaches reasonable value to incumbency. They will choose an experienced, politically-balanced Republican incumbent over a novice Democrat when they believe it better serves the public interest. And they followed this pattern once again in Utah's U.S. House District One by narrowly endorsing incumbent Republican Rob Bishop over Democratic challenger Morgan Bowen (the other two candidates are Libertarian Joseph Geddes Buchman and Constitution Party candidate Kirk D. Pearson). Read the complete endorsement HERE.
What the Tribune likes about Bishop:
- A strong supporter of Hill Air Force Base, a key economic driver in the region.
- Favors a balanced national energy policy that includes tapping renewable energy resources.
- Supports fiscal restraint in Washington to balance the budget and reduce the national debt (voted against the %700 billion mortgage bailout).
- Strong support of states' rights, gun rights, the right to life and local control over education mirrors his constituency.
- As a three-term incumbent, Bishop knows the ropes, understands the issues and has developed alliances enabling him to better serve his district and the nation as a whole.
Why the Tribune rejected Bowen: There aren't many differences between Rob Bishop and Morgan Bowen, but the most critical difference is political experience. Compared to Bishop, Bowen ain't got any. They think Bowen should further season himself by aspiring to lesser elective offices first.
Good call by the Tribune. I respect both candidates, but I would have made the same choice, despite concerns about Bishop's attitude toward nuclear waste and his excessively close political relationship with Energy Solutions. Bishop's ardor for turning Utah into an international dumping ground for foreign nuclear waste had to be checked by none other than Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. before Bishop backed off. Huntsman's on his way to an easy re-election victory, and we can trust him to keep an eye on Bishop.
The Tribune had a much easier decision in Utah's U.S. House District Two, endorsing incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson by a wider margin over Republican challenger Bill Dew (the other candidates are Libertarian Mathew Arndt and Constitution Party candidate Dennis Ray Emery). Read the complete endorsement HERE.
What the Tribune likes about Matheson:
- Opposed the Divine Strake nuclear weapons test in Nevada.
- Supports the Children's Health Insurance Program.
- Sponsored legislation to stop the importing of foreign nuclear waste.
- Political savvy; Leans just enough to the right on social issues to remain electable within the district.
- Seniority and membership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and energy and health subcommittees give him some clout as Congress works to develop alternative energy and a workable health-care system.
What the Tribune doesn't like about Matheson:
- Voted against the financial bailout package that most Democrats supported as necessary to save the country from total financial collapse. [Ed. Note: However, the Bush Administration did NOT present persuasive evidence supporting the prognosis of a "total collapse".]
- Proposed eliminating the Democrat-sponsored moratorium on oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, although this is offset by his unfortunate vote against opening up ANWR. The Tribune favors this moratorium despite high energy prices and overdependence on foreign energy sources.
- Along with Republican Senator Bob Bennett, jointly sponsored the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act, which would open up thousands of acres of federal land to private development and encourage sprawl in Washington County. The Tribune opposes this act despite the fact that Utah's excessive amount of Federal land contributes absolutely nothing to the Utah state treasury since states, by law, are barred from levying property taxes on Federal land.
- Despite being a delegate, Matheson refused to attend its national convention, where Barack Obama was nominated for president. The Tribune considered this important solely because Obama is the first black Presidential nominee from the major parties, and criticized Matheson for not joining the rest of the Democrats in a national orgy of Obama-worship.
What the Tribune likes even less about Bill Dew: In general, they believe Dew supports the failed "far-right" policies of the Bush Administration.
- He does not believe carbon emissions are causing global climate change and he supports more coal-fired power plants.
- He "has no problem" with importing foreign nuclear waste
- He faults the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act with moving too little public land into private hands.
- He opposes any national health-care program and believes letting people "shop around for health care" would solve the problem of too many uninsured.
A reasonably good call by the Tribune. While Bill Dew philosophically meshes better with me, Matheson's social conservatism makes him electable. Furthermore, should Barack Obama be elected President, it would help Utah to have at least one lawmaker in the "enemy camp", so to speak, to give us a bit of stroke. Matheson is a moderate Democrat who represents Utah well, and deserves an encore trip to Washington.
Which leaves the District Three race between Republican giant-killer Jason Chaffetz, Democrat Bennion Spencer, and Constitution Party candidate Jim Noorlander. Apparently the Tribune doesn't want to touch this one yet because they don't approve of any of the candidates. Chaffetz is probably too far right for the Tribune's taste, particularly on immigration. But I doubt Bennion Spencer is the type of Democrat the Tribune feels comfortable with. He tends to be to the right of Jim Matheson. Perhaps Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh has threatened to go on a hunger strike if the Tribune endorses Spencer. Besides, Spencer is the one who briefly suggested that Jesus Christ endorsed him (wonder if he got his free Playstation 2?).
Furthermore, Spencer trailed Chaffetz badly in a September Dan Jones poll, although Utah Amicus tells us that Anthony Brown and Associates conducted a later poll showing Chaffetz with only a nine-point lead. However, Utah Amicus was an official Utah blog of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, so you can draw your own conclusions.
If the Tribune endorses anyone in this race, it will be Bennion Spencer. But don't be surprised if they choose not to award an endorsement. Update October 26th - the Salt Lake Tribune did finally endorse Bennion Spencer.