This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Despite the lack of marquee races for president and the U.S. Senate, Utahns who cast ballots in Tuesday's election will determine the outcomes of four U.S. House races, proposed constitutional amendments, a state attorney general's race and myriad legislative races along with county contests. The following is a rundown of what's at stake across the state.
Utahns in Congress
This midterm election doesn't look favorable nationally for Democrats who could lose control of both chambers in Congress and that trend may continue in Utah, which, according to recent polls, is likely to elect its first all-Republican delegation in 14 years. The three GOP incumbents Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart appear locks for re-election while Mia Love, who is taking her second shot at Congress, hopes to nab the open seat being vacated by seven-term Democrat Jim Matheson.
1st District • In a rematch of 2012, businesswoman Donna McAleer is trying again to topple Rep. Rob Bishop, who is seeking his seventh term. McAleer, a Democrat, calls Bishop a "guardian of gridlock," while her Republican rival says he protects Utah values in Washington. Bishop, who touts that he stands to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in 2015, thumped McAleer by a 3-to-1 margin last time. McAleer is close to matching Bishop dollar for dollar but she may have difficulty matching him vote for vote. The latest polls show the incumbent far ahead.
2nd District • Rep. Chris Stewart is running for re-election for the first time and faces state Sen. Luz Robles, a Salt Lake City Democrat who is expecting a baby girl shortly after the Nov. 4 vote. Stewart, an author and former Air Force pilot, says he should return to Washington to keep government limited while Robles sees government as a good partner that shouldn't be feared. Stewart holds a solid lead over Robles in polls and fundraising.
3rd District • Rep. Jason Chaffetz is seeking a fourth term this time against a Democratic underdog, Brian Wonnacott, who acknowledges not really wanting to put much effort into a long-shot campaign. That leaves Chaffetz, a Republican looking to lead the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, essentially running unopposed.
4th District • If Utah has a competitive congressional race, this is the one. Republican Mia Love is again running for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, who is leaving the House and has endorsed Doug Owens, a Democrat and son of the late Rep. Wayne Owens. Love has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and earned national headlines as she seeks to become the first black Republican woman in Congress, while Owens despite the tightening polls has yet to attract attention from national Democrats, who flooded Utah with ads backing Matheson last time.
There is only one statewide partisan race on the ballot this fall. It's a special election to pick someone to fill the remaining two years in the scandal-plagued term of former Attorney General John Swallow, who stepped down last December after less than a year in office.
Attorney general • This battle pits the current attorney general, Republican Sean Reyes, against Democratic challenger Charles Stormont, an assistant in the attorney general's office. Reyes has held the post since he was appointed in December. Reyes touts the reforms he has made to improve office morale and prevent future problems in the wake of the scandal. (Swallow and his predecessor, former three-term Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, face multiple felony counts in a sweeping corruption case.) Stormont says Reyes hasn't gone far enough. He also criticizes Reyes for wasting millions defending Utah's same-sex-marriage ban, which was struck down in court.
The 2014 ballot will have three proposed amendments to the Utah Constitution. Amendment A would remove a requirement that no more than two members of the Utah Tax Commission, which advises the state on tax law, come from the same political party. Proponents say members should be chosen based solely on qualifications, while opponents say the commission needs a balanced view. Amendment B would modify the term of the lieutenant governor, making it run concurrently with the governor. That has been the practice since 1984. Under current law, an appointed lieutenant governor in extremely rare circumstances may not have to be on the ballot with the governor. Amendment C would allow the lieutenant governor, auditor and treasurer to hire their own legal counsel. Currently, the governor has legal counsel, while the other offices rely on advice from the attorney general's office. Supporters say conflicts could arise if the other offices have to rely on the attorney general. Opponents warn the change would open the floodgates to let the offices create without bounds their own legal teams.
Democrats already are a threatened species in the Utah Legislature and are at risk of becoming endangered if a few races break in favor of the Republican supermajority. For their part, Democrats hope to chip away at the kings of the Hill and perhaps snag a seat outside Salt Lake County. Right now, the GOP rules the Senate, 24-5, and the House, 61-14. Here are some bellwether races to watch:
Senate District 4 • The retirement of Democratic Sen. Pat Jones left her Holladay seat vacant. Former Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jani Iwamoto, a Democrat, is running against Holladay City Councilwoman Sabrina Petersen, a Republican.
Senate District 12 • Freshman Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher is seeking re-election in his West Valley City, Magna and Tooele district, against Democrat Clare Collard.
House District 30 • In West Valley City, former Republican Rep. Fred Cox is seeking to return to the House in an open seat, due to the retirement of Democratic Rep. Janice Fisher. Michael Lee, a police officer who has the same name as Utah's conservative U.S. senator, is vying to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
House District 31 • Rep. Larry Wiley, a Democrat who won re-election by a slim 77 votes last year in West Valley City, faces a tough challenge from Republican Sophia DiCaro, who worked in the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
House District 44 • In Murray, the retirement of Democratic Rep. Tim Cosgrove left the seat a tossup between Democrat Christine Passey and Republican Bruce Cutler.
House District 69 • In Carbon and Emery counties, former Democratic Rep. Brad King is trying to return to the House, taking on Republican Bill Labrum, a Roosevelt car dealer.
Salt Lake County
The Democrats hold the county mayor's chair with Ben McAdams at the halfway point of his first four-year term and Republicans cling to a slim 5-4 majority on the County Council. Thus, both parties will be eyeing the four council contests on the ballot, with Republicans aiming to keep or bolster their majority and Democrats working to seize back control.
Council at-large seat • Randy Horiuchi is stepping aside after 12 years as an at-large council member. Eager to hold onto that six-year seat, the Democrats have turned to Jenny Wilson, a former council member with a well-known political pedigree. On the council from 2005-11, she is the executive director of institutional advancement for Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. She is an advocate for open space and air quality as well as providing mental and behavioral health services to those who need them. Her opponent is Republican Micah Bruner, an attorney from Sandy. A political newcomer, he favors less government intervention in the lives of people and businesses.
Council District 1 • Democratic incumbent Arlyn Bradshaw is expected to prevail against Republican Richard Barnes in this left-leaning Salt Lake City district.
Council District 3 • The Republicans' council majority could be upended if Democrat Dan Snarr, the mustachioed former mayor of Murray, defeats Republican Aimee Winder Newton. Appointed to the post earlier this year when incumbent David Wilde resigned for health reasons, Newton used her background as a Taylorsville employee and local government observer to get quickly up to speed on county issues. Snarr believes his experience as a four-term mayor will be invaluable to him in the central valley council seat, which takes in parts of Murray, Taylorsville, West Jordan, West Valley City, South Salt Lake and the unincorporated county.
Council District 5 • Republican incumbent Steven DeBry is running unopposed in the southwestern part of the Salt Lake Valley.
District attorney • Democratic incumbent Sim Gill has been a headlining figure for the past four years as a key player in the prosecutions of former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow along with a West Valley City police officer accused of killing Danielle Willard. Gill also has been active in pushing early-case resolution of lesser crimes and seeking new downtown offices for the D.A.'s staff. His Republican rival, Steve Nelson, is a prosecutor on that staff. Nelson argues he is more qualified than Gill to pursue complex cases like those high-profile ones. He opposes early-case resolution, contending it more often produces repeat offenders whose later crimes are worse than the original ones.
Sheriff • The most hotly contested county race involves Democratic Sheriff Jim Winder's efforts to secure a third term against Republican Jake Petersen. Winder touts as key accomplishments of his eight years in office his efforts to establish a consolidated 911 emergency dispatch system and to provide mental health and behavioral care for jail inmates to reduce recidivism. Petersen, a lieutenant in the Unified Police Department, has ridiculed his boss as the ultimate politician and says he would work to forge better relations between the police and the public, connections frayed by officer-involved shootings here and around the country.
ZAP • County officials are keeping a wary eye on the vote to extend for another 10 years the Zoo, Arts and Parks tax (a penny for every $10 spent). Although a tax, the program enjoys considerable support from politicians on both sides of the aisle and from arts groups, trails enthusiasts and animal lovers who have benefited from its proceeds. While opposition to ZAP renewal has been light, the Utah Taxpayers Association has come out against it and county officials know that anti-tax sentiments have been expressed before at the ballot box.
State school board
Seven seats on the 15-member state school board are up this year, including three open races in which incumbents are not seeking re-election. The candidate pool was shaken up this year by the late additions of Breck England, Pat Rusk and Joel Wright to the ballot after a federal judge ruled the state's process for selecting candidates is unconstitutional.
England has since withdrawn and thrown his support behind candidate Mark Bouchard, who formerly served as chairman of Prosperity 2020, an initiative by Utah's business community to improve education.
Area school boards
Local school board elections could see a number of incumbents lose their seats as issues such as the Common Core, SAGE test scores and teacher accountability become increasingly divisive.
The Salt Lake City School District has encountered criticism for its response to an incident at Uintah Elementary, where the lunches of 17 children were seized and thrown away.
Out of the three board seats up for election, only one incumbent, Rosemary Emery, is seeking re-election. School board races also are on the ballot in Canyons, Granite, Jordan and Murray districts. In Utah County's Alpine School District, all four incumbents up for re-election including President John Burton and Vice President JoDee Sundberg face challengers.
Robert Gehrke, Thomas Burr, Mike Gorrell and Benjamin Wood contributed to this story