Now that the 2014 election season has come to a close, the time has come to look at the numbers and decipher the what the tea-leaves have to say.
Gerrymandering of Salt Lake County contributes to Love’s victory.
Though there were many aspects to the Love/Owens campaign this year, one of the principal factors contributing to Mia Love’s victory appears to be the fact that Salt Lake County contains three congressional districts instead of one whole congressional district to itself, effectively diluting the Democratic vote.
In 2012, Love lost Salt Lake County by over 15,000 votes, while Republican Chris Stewart lost to Jay Seegmiller by nearly 19,000 votes in the Salt Lake County portion of Congressional District 1, which is comprised of Salt Lake City. Only Congressman Jason Chaffetz was able to claim victory in the county due to a relatively weak challenge and district boundaries encompassing the more conservative south-east portion of the valley.
This year, the story appears similar. Democrat Luz Robles defeated Congressman Chris Stewart by nearly 12,750 votes in Congressional District 1 while Owens defeated Love by just under 4,700 votes within Salt Lake County.
Though Owens’ and Robles’ campaigns were starkly different, it is reasonable to say that had Salt Lake County (and more specifically the more dense and liberal portions of northern Salt Lake County) had it’s own congressional district, Love would not have been successful in her bid. However, because lawmakers drew districts with sprawling boundaries that divided similar communities, Democratic votes were split and Love was able to minimize losses on the east and south sides of the county.
Voters have forgotten about the John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff scandals.
Just under a year ago, Utah’s political scene was rocked by the allegations brought to light surrounding the John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff scandals; last night, there was no visible backlash against specific candidates or the Republican Party when it came time for citizens to vote.
Democrats, fearful of appearing negative and apparently afraid of upsetting Republican voters, not only failed to mention the scandals of the past two Attorneys General, they actively ran away from it – refusing to even discuss corruption from the opposing party. Republicans, on the other hand, effectively separated themselves from the scandal, panning it off as two bad apples. With no pressure from Utah Democrats, the Utah GOP was able to successfully drop the topic.
With a more than 2-1 victory in the Attorney General’s race and an overall dominance in all other State House and Senate races, it is clear that voters saw no need to punish Republicans for the past sins of the former AG’s.
Democrats make gains by the skin of their teeth.
Democrats were able to maintain their superminority in the Senate last night with no major drama originating from the four safe seats on the ballot. In the House, Democrats did gain a single seat, picking up House District 69, which is comprised of Carbon County and portions of Duchesne, Emery, and Grand Counties. With former Representative Brad King returning to the statehouse, Democrats can once again claim that they are no longer isolated to the Wasatch Front.
But it was not all smiles at Democratic HQ yesterday.
Dems made no gains in Salt Lake County, and in the case of West Valley Democrat Larry Wiley in House District 31, may lose a seat in the event that his 33 vote victory does not hold after provisional ballots are counted.
Other much touted races by the Democrats failed to produce victories for the minority party. Democratic party favorite, Liz Muniz, was soundly defeated by incumbent Republican Craig Hall in West Valley’s House District 33 by a vote of 57 to 43 percent. Similarly, Democrat Karen Kwan suffered a sound defeat at the hands of incumbent Republican Johnny Anderson in the Mid-Valley House District 34, losing by a vote of 52 to 48 percent. On the Senate side, the Democrats much lauded candidate, Michelle Weeks, failed to oust Republican incumbent Howard Stephenson in Senate District 11, which encomapses the southern end of Salt Lake County and the northern end of Utah County. Weeks would lose by a 25 percent margin.
Utahns don’t rubber stamp Constitutional Amendments.
In a bit of a surprise, two of the three Constitutional Amendments voters decided upon yesterday failed by wide margins despite strong support in both the House and the Senate.
Constitutional Amendment A would have had the potential to turn the Utah State Tax Commission into a partisan entity. Currently, the law requires that no more than two members of the commission may be appointed from the same political party – had Amendment A been successful this requirement would have been dropped and the governor, with the consent of the Senate could have packed the Tax Commission with members of only one political party.
Voters would soundly reject Constitutional Amendment A by more than 20 percent.
Amendment C was also shot down by voters on Tuesday.
If successful, Constitutional Amendment C would have allowed the Lieutenant Governor, State Auditor, and State Treasurer to be able to appoint independent legal counsel. Currently, the Utah Constitution states that the Attorney General is the legal counsel for these office holders, however concerns were raised when the Lieutenant Governor was actively investigating the AG’s office for campaign violations. For a period of time the Lieutenant Governor’s office was using the legal counsel from the very same office they were investigating.
Policy makers expressed concerns that such a system would create a system of legal advisors who have no ties to the public and noted that the AG’s scandal was a unique situation and that, overall, the AG’s office itself (not necessarily the head of the AG’s office), have proven themselves time and time again to be effective public servants.
Voters would reject Amendment C by an even wider margin, knocking down the amendment by 30 percent.
As Utah Data Points notes, it is good to be an incumbent in the state of Utah. There will only be 12 new faces in the House this year, with many new facing coming from open seats. Within the Senate, only one new face will be seen – Republican Senator Elect, Ann Millner, will be replacing Republican Stewart Reid in Ogden after Reid announced that he would not be running for office earlier this year.
This comes as no particular surprise, the trend of maintaining incumbents has become more popular over the years, and voters are less inclined to make changes during mid-term elections.
Correction – Democrat Jani Iwamoto will be replacing outgoing Senator, Democrat Pat Jones, in the Senate as well.