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By Stephen Trimble

So, you are a moderate Republican, a member of the LDS Church, and you are thrilled to have the chance to vote for Mitt Romney.

If you place an X in that tempting box at the top of your ballot that says "Republican" and vote a straight party ticket, I believe you'll elect candidates you may not fully support, candidates at odds with your values as a reasonable, centrist Utah citizen.

If every Romney voter also votes for the generic "Republican" — no matter the stance of the candidates — common sense and common ground could lose in race after race. If every Republican wins, including many candidates far to the right of the average Utahn, any hope of moderation and goodwill in our community will disappear.

This year's election offers stark choices. I urge you to vote deliberately for each office, one by one, name by name.

Take the race for state attorney general. John Swallow, the Republican, is an extreme ideologue. His opponent, Weber County Attorney Dee Smith, is a serious and capable public servant. When The Tribune endorsed Smith, the editors summed up Swallow as "an apologist for such unsavory clients as the pay-day loan industry, raising scads of campaign cash for himself and others and standing up for such legally, and ethically, marginal ideas as suing the federal government for control of 30 million acres of land that belong to the American people."

A similar divide separates Jay Seegmiller and Chris Stewart in the 2nd Congressional District. Stewart's political ideas lie far outside the mainstream, and his novels describe Satan's influence on America as the last days approach. Seegmiller is a solid, decent man — a classic citizen politician. From jobs to education to energy, Seegmiller's positions are centrist, balanced and fair.

And do you really want to trade Jim Matheson's 12 years of experience in the U.S. Congress for Mia Love's resume, which includes nothing more than serving as councilwoman and mayor of a town of fewer than 20,000? Love parrots the extreme Republican platform — including policies that would destroy the social safety net and make it more difficult for middle-class students to attend college. While Matheson angers both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans with his votes, he constantly strives to represent the center. Matheson may be a Democrat, but he will represent you, a moderate, far better than Love.

Race after race offers real choices:

Donna McAleer — with a fascinating resume that includes a degree from West Point and an MBA — versus the mean-spirited incumbent, Rob Bishop, in the 1st Congressional District.

For Salt Lake County mayor, the stellar Ben McAdams, a Democrat supported by the Republican mayors of Sandy, Taylorsville, West Jordan, Riverton, South Salt Lake, Bluffdale, and Holladay, versus Republican Mark Crockett, who can't manage his finances carefully enough to avoid a lien on his house.

Just 14 states allow straight-ticket voting. Other states eliminated the option because voters may never reach the non-partisan ballot entries and thus may neglect to cast votes for judicial retention and initiatives.

Each race deserves your attention. As a moderate, do you want extremist, inexperienced or weak candidates to win just because they happen to be Republican?

Your vote matters. Every vote matters. Even in Utah.

Stephen Trimble is a Salt Lake City-based writer and teacher.

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