Change is coming

By By Tim Chambless

By Tim Chambless

Change. Utah voters have heard both Barack Obama and John McCain declare that “change is coming.”

Utah Democrats and Utah Republicans differ on the exact meaning of that word. Utah independent voters have pondered whether change will mean an end to wrong-headed White House policies, or minor reform and remodeling. Either way, change is on Utah’s political horizon.

Election Day has arrived. For many, it has been a long time in coming and is an opportunity to end U.S. government policies that have harmed the nation. For other Utahns, its arrival is a day of political reckoning for mistakes made by officials many Utah voters have supported in past elections.

Utah became a state in 18968212;nearly 12 decades after the creation of a unique American “experiment in democracy” (in George Washington’s words). Today, Utah has less than 1 percent of the nation’s total population. Its small population has resulted in limited power on the national political stage.

Utah has been labeled a “red” state8212;filled with voters who have given their money and their votes to the Republican Party. However, Utah was a “blue” state only decades ago when its governor, Utah Legislature and members of Congress identified with the Democratic Party. Since the 1970s, Utah has been a one-party state controlled by the Republican Party.

In Utah, political incumbents are in position to hold onto their government jobs and political power. Republicans claim a clear majority of public offices, and it appears they will be able to withstand the rejection that is happening to other Republicans in other states throughout the nation.

Utah Republicans expect to see Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. return to office and Mark Shurtleff to be given a third term as attorney general. Utah Republicans expect they can keep control of the Legislature where the state Senate has been 21-8 and Republicans have a 55-20 majority in the Utah House of Representatives. Democrats will close those margins.

Utah Democrats are energized and have been voting in record numbers. As many as one-third of Utah’s voters will have already voted before Election Day. These highly motivated citizens fit a profile that gives the Democratic Party reason for optimism. Many of these early voters are first-time voters. They share common concerns over a deepening recession and job losses, record deficits and a $10.6 trillion national debt.

Polls indicate Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon leads his Republican opponent Michael Renckert more than 2-1. A big win by Mayor Corroon might provide strong political coattails for a number of first-time Democratic candidates throughout Salt Lake County8212;including County Council candidates Jani Iwamoto, Paul Pugmire and Roger Harding, as well as Luz Robles in Senate District 1 (northwest Salt Lake) and John Rendell in Senate District 10 (southwest Salt Lake County).

Democratic congressman Jim Matheson appears to have a 2-1 lead over his Republican challenger. First elected in 2000 and the son of the late Gov. Scott Matheson, Jim Matheson might have political coattails long enough to bring other Democrats into office as well.
The U is within Salt Lake County, where half of Utah’s total population resides. The U has the potential to be a powerful voting bloc. Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said in a campus speech Friday that the U was the 10th best university in the nation for student voter turnout.

Democrats appear to outnumber Republicans significantly on the U campus. There have been long lines of voters in the Union since Oct. 218212;the first day Salt Lake County residents could vote early on campus. As a result, a record voter turnout from the U could potentially help the Democratic Party in Utah.

Democrats will increase their numbers, more so compared to neighboring states. Hillary Clinton was correct when she declared Oct. 25 in West Valley City that, “John McCain will win Utah in 2008. However, in 2012, Barack Obama will win Utah.”

Utah is becoming a two-party state. Competition is good. Change is coming.

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Phil Cannon