Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Democrat Sam Granato Enters The Utah U.S. Senate Race Against Republican Incumbent Bob Bennett: Contender Or Cannon Fodder?
Most Utah Democratic candidates outside the immediate Salt Lake area prove to be little more than cannon fodder for Republicans. Classic case in point: Bennion Spencer proved to be little more than a speed bump on Jason Chaffetz' historic road to victory. A Republican generally must pull a Greg Curtis to get beat by a Democrat outside of Salt Lake.
So the question is, will the newest Democratic candidate for office prove to be more cannon fodder, or will he be an actual contender? The latest Democratic offering is San Granato, the 59-year-old owner of three Salt Lake Valley restaurants. Granato formally announced his campaign on Monday June 1st, 2009, although the announcement was overshadowed by Republican Cherilyn Eagar's entry into the campaign as well. Primary story in the Salt Lake Tribune; additional stories by the Deseret News and on KSL Channel 5. The Utah State Democratic Party official blog weighs in HERE.
"I realize that I am not your typical politician," Granato told a small but avid crowd of supporters. "And frankly, that will be a good thing." KSL video embedded below:
Touting his 40 years as a small business owner, along with his service on several health care and finance boards, to include his chairmanship of the state's liquor commission, Granato said he is well-prepared to represent Utahns in Washington, D.C. "As a party to the restructuring of Utah's liquor laws, I have proved that I am capable of listening to different opinions and forming a consensus," Granato said.
Although Granato's message is currently short on policy, he promises detailed positions on the major issues in the months to come. But that doesn't deter former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden from supporting him. Layden lauded Granato's citizen-business persona and common sense. And radio host Tom Barbieri, a former Salt Lake Tribune columnist, called Granato's candidacy refreshing. "His father, Frank Granato Sr., started this whole business by pushing a handcart and reaching out to everybody. Sam built it into what it is today," Barberi said. "He doesn't have an agenda other than to do good and to make sure the people of Utah are represented."
Update August 28th: Sam Granato is building an official campaign website HERE. Here's a YouTube video in which Granato discusses his candidacy at greater length:
Granato decries the trash-talking that has permeated the nation's politics, and pledged to listen to constituents as he campaigns over the next several months. Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland considers Granato a viable candidate and said Utah is widely seen as part of a bigger trend. He said, "Opportunities for victory in the west are there and we've got some viable candidates, not just the one now that declared today, but other candidates for statewide office that we think have great opportunities." But Granato estimates he's going to need $2 million to run against Senator Bennett, and that could be a major challenge.
Granato is an active member of the LDS Church, thus proving that Ezra Taft Benson was wrong when he allegedly said one could not be both a good Mormon and a Democrat, and has served in several leadership and service positions including the Boy Scouts of America. He has been married to Ann for thirty four years and has four children and seven grandchildren.
If he secures the Democratic nomination, Granato will go on to face the victor in a crowded Republican field. Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson has not ruled out a run at Bennett. Three-term incumbent Bennett is challenged by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, business owner Tim Bridgewater, conservative activist Cherilyn Eagar, and James Williams.
Two lefty bloggers already enthused about Granato's campaign include Bob Aagard and Utah Amicus. Another interesting tidbit: If you read two of Aagard's posts, HERE and HERE, together the two posts convey the impression that Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Pete Corroon is weighing a run for Governor in 2010, but only if Jim Matheson doesn't jump into the race. Both Matheson and Corroon are highly credible Democrats, and Matheson could potentially defeat Gary Herbert if Herbert picks a mirror-image lieutenant governor.
While Sam Granato has established at this point that he is more than just "cannon fodder", it remains to be seen whether or not he is a contender. He could find a battle against either Bob Bennett or Mark Shurtleff particularly tough.