It was a split in Utah's two most controversial legislative races this year. District 10 Republican Senator Chris Buttars, under fire for his social conservatism and his occasional blunt language, staged a come-from-behind win over Democratic challenger John Rendell, with Constitution Party candidate Steve Maxfield a distant third. Buttars trailed early in the election returns, but slowly progressed and overtook Rendell. 100 percent of the precincts have been counted; here are the numbers (pollster Dan Jones had this one pegged):
- Chris Buttars (R): 18,089 votes, 49.35 percent
- John Rendell (D): 16,596 votes, 45.27 percent
- Steve Maxfield (Con): 1,971 votes, 5.38 percent
However, the night ended badly for House Speaker Greg Curtis, under fire for his previous support of an awkward and unpopular school voucher initiative and for taking excessive gifts from lobbyists. He lost his House District 49 seat to Democratic challenger Jay Seegmiller, with Constitution Party candidate Wayne Crawford and Libertarian Charles Bonsall bringing up the rear. 100 percent of the precincts have also been counted here, and here are the numbers:
- Jay Seegmiller (D): 6,827 votes, 53.54 percent
- Greg Curtis (R): 5,447 votes, 42.72 percent
- Wayne Crawford (Con): 270 votes, 2.12 percent
- Charles Bonsall (Lib): 207 votes, 1.62 percent
Related media stories from KSL Channel 5, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune. Tribune columnist Paul Rolly takes a cheap shot at Buttars HERE, claiming one reason Buttars ran for a third term is because once a state senator serves for 10 years, he qualifies for the state's premium health insurance for life.
Full election results from the following sources:
- Click HERE for Utah election results.
- Click HERE for KSL Channel 5 Salt Lake County election page.
- Click HERE or HERE for California Proposition 8 results (because of high interest, the first site may hang from time to time).
Why did Buttars succeed where Curtis failed? Core constituency. Chris Buttars maintained a strong core consituency of social conservatives throughout the entire campaign by his pronounced social conservatism. The influential Eagle Forum Utah also took up his cause and promoted his candidacy. In addition, the savage ferocity of the elite's reaction to Buttars' "black baby" remark, combined with the elite's demonization of District 10 voters drove them right back into Buttars' arms and provoked them to circle the wagons around him. From that base, Chris Buttars was able to slowly and steadily earn back the trust and confidence of constituents who were determined not to allow the NAACP or other outsiders to dictate their representation.
But John Rendell didn't help himself when he had a "John Jacob Moment" just before the election. Rendell suddenly and hysterically claimed that Chris Buttars had called him a a stooge of the gay-rights crowd and might be gay himself, and claimed that gays had donated $100,000 to his campaign. Buttars easily parried the charges aside, leaving Rendell to look like he was cracking under pressure. Who's John Jacob, you ask? Two years ago, within striking distance of Chris Cannon on the eve of the Republican primary, John Jacob suddenly claimed that "Satan" had got involved in the race. You could literally hear the air hissing out of his campaign thereafter, and the Third District had to suffer through two more years of the RINO as a result.
On the other hand, Greg Curtis didn't really have a core constituency. He never cultivated or activated the strong base necessary to launch a coherent campaign. He seemed to be on the defensive throughout the entire run. Meanwhile, Jay Seegmiller cultivated a strong base by his personal campaign style. Many of his partisans spoke often and highly of Seegmiller's exceptional accessibility, impressed with the fact the Seegmiller even gave out his cell phone number to constituents. His working class persona as a TRAX driver further helped his cause. And in the end, it has now propelled him into the Utah State House.
Good luck to Jay Seegmiller, and hope District 49 voters are satisfied with the outcome. As for Chris Buttars, it's great that he fought back against and defeated political correctness, but he would be wise to be magnaminous in victory and reach out to and reconcile with his entire district.