2006 election races to watch

By Christina Coloroso and Jessica Fawson

September marks the beginning of many people’s favorite season. No, not fall-campaign season, silly. And with many candidates already off to the races, we are here to provide you the low-down on this season’s “races to watch.” Here are just a few of the political campaigns to keep your eyes on until November. And good luck to all the hardworking candidates-we’ll see you on the flip side.

State Senate District 4

Salt Lake City, Holladay City, Cottonwood Heights

Patricia Jones (D) vs. Dirk Anjewieden IV (R)

On the Candidates:

Fawson: With his movie-star good looks and positive personality, Anjewierden not only acts like he’d make a difference-but with his business background and Republican affiliation, he actually could. Anjewierden has the ability to understand complex issues-especially in the health-care arena-as he has been representing elderly health-care issues to the Legislature. In the education realm, he is a believer in smaller school districts, which his constituency appears to support strongly. The only strike against him could be that he is not female, as almost all of the legislators from this district are. Typically though, it is issues that determine a race.

Coloroso: Jones has served her community in the Utah House of Representatives since 2001, and has spent a significant portion of that time in Democratic leadership positions. She is well known for her moderate, thoughtful and compassionate demeanor, with a political track record to follow. Though critics argue Jones may be too conservative to call herself a Democrat, her well-reasoned, bipartisan focus has certainly distinguished her from other politicians and will most likely prove an asset in this race. Jones is strong on the issues of health care and the protection of Utah’s elderly, and she contributes her solid business foundation to her current political dealings.

On the Issues:

Fawson: If elected, Anjewierden will continue a heritage of Republican representation of District 4. Though Sen. Patrice Arent, a Democrat, represents this district, it is historically Republican. With his family values, business background, understanding of health care and education perspective, Anjewierden can contribute a great deal. It is not enough to work hard at the Legislature; you must be able to get results. Anjewierden, as a Republican, can get those results. Besides, he is one of the few candidates who actually listens to the people. If he can sway enough middle-ground votes, he will be one of the best legislators Utah has ever seen.

Coloroso: If elected, Jones will replace Sen. Arent in District 4, one of only four women in the entire Utah State Senate. The significance of maintaining one of the few strong female voices in government is more than symbolic, and Jones brings important insights about traditionally “feminine” issues, such as education, family and health care. Jones has already shown her willingness to work long and hard to succeed in this race, and her constituents will surely benefit if her work ethic translates to results in November.

State House District 25

Salt Lake City, Park City

Christine “Chris” Johnson (D) versus Kenneth Grover (R)

On the candidates:

Fawson: Grover represents traditional Utah values. While his opponents have been running suspect races, Grover has been working hard. His experience is mostly in the education realm, as he has been an administrator at a local high school. Once again, as a Republican, he can actually get something to happen for this district, while the Democrats never pick up enough seats to be major players. As a father and Republican, he brings traditional values to the table, he works hard and would be an asset for this district as a moderate voice at the Utah Capitol.

Coloroso: Johnson was chosen as the Democratic candidate for this race after surviving a nasty political primary last June. Knowledgeable voters may still harbor resentment or even confusion regarding hot topics such as potential voter fraud, campaign-finance practices and Johnson’s so-called ‘on-again, off-again’ relationship with the gay community. Nevertheless, Johnson’s unique life experiences, including briefly benefiting from welfare programs as a single mother, are valuable perspectives to a somewhat homogenous legislative body. As an open and active LGBT member, Johnson provides a progressive and tolerant example of leadership.

On the Issues:

Fawson: The real story here is with Johnson. Though she has proven herself through a long and difficult primary, she has not remained unscathed. There are some in her own party who believe she may not be seated at the Utah House should she win because she voted in a different district in the last election. Add to this the potential problems of voter fraud and suspect financial reporting, and you have a very dirty race. With her obvious ethical struggles, her message should not persuade you.

Coloroso: Johnson has demonstrated commitment to Utah’s environment in her opposition of additional construction of gasoline retailers, as well as a promise to sponsor anti-idling legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Having benefited from state health and assistance programs in the past, Johnson also advocates the proper funding of other programs.

United States Senate

All of Utah

Orrin G. Hatch (R) versus Pete Ashdown (D)

On the Candidates:

Fawson: The biggest race in the state and the one that will lead the ballot is, of course, none other than for U.S. Senate. Sen. Hatch is a very nice gentleman who should be respected. He does great things for Utah, making sure we are fairly represented in Washington, D.C. I disagree with arguments that suggest that anyone but Hatch would be better, clearly denying the role of seniority. For wrong or right, seniority is a huge part of getting anything done for your state or for making a difference at all for the nation. Hatch has done great things and he will continue to do them in Washington, D.C.

Coloroso: It is not often that we are lucky enough to see a political candidate as innovative, upstanding and genuine as Ashdown. Though many would say the odds are firmly stacked against him, Ashdown has dignifiedly refused to sink to the level of embedded and aloof politicians in the name of victory. His campaign is the epitome of class, values and character, and he has helped rejuvenate the spirit of many Democrats across the state. Ashdown is a breath of fresh air, and he has made me a believer.

On the Issues:

Fawson: Utahns trust Hatch and are generally happy with him and his image as the grandfather who fights for Utah. Don’t expect the Ashdown camp to be able to overcome his experience or his campaigning. Hatch runs every race as though he could lose; he works hard and will continue as our senator for least another six years.

Coloroso: Incumbent Hatch has spent the past 29 years representing only the most conservative Republican interests in the Senate. Ashdown brings a modern and compassionate view on many controversial issues in this race, largely reflecting ideological differences between the two parties as a whole. Ashdown has made every effort to ensure that ordinary people have the greatest impact on his campaign positions, even going so far as to sponsor a Wikipedia-like forum for political discussion on his Web site. Ashdown’s leadership is the stuff of dreams in a state like Utah.