And the demise of the longest serving Democrat in the Utah House and a conservative representative firebrand beaten by a moderate GOP reformer.
What do we learn from the 2012 primary elections in Utah?
First, one election cycle does not a trend make.
While U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch has been saying for two years that he is not Bob Bennett – and so would not suffer defeat by the hands of fellow Utah Republicans as former U.S. senator Bennett did in 2010 -- the reality is that Hatch, with the strong mind and planning of campaign manager Dave Hansen, created his own state delegate pool this year.
And with the help of the Utah Republican Party’s March caucus turnout effort, along with that of the LDS Church, Hatch’s victory Tuesday ended up as no big surprise.
Back in the day, state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, a Bountiful Republican, thought he had a chance at Hatch in the May 2012 state GOP convention.
But it didn’t turn out that way.
Hatch almost eliminated Liljenquist in the convention, not the other way around. And Hatch swamped Liljenquist Tuesday night.
In the end, Hatch’s money, name I.D., Mitt Romney endorsement ads and the like made the Liljenquist effort fall way short.
Hatch says this is his last campaign. Utah Republicans will take a bit of a breather. But by 2014 or 2015 watch for some young bucks to start their 2018 campaigning for the open U.S. Senate seat.
Meanwhile, there will be hard feelings for some time in the GOP AG race. In the end, John Swallow, the handpicked successor of out-going Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (who has been kicking himself for two years because he didn’t challenge Bennett in 2010) came out the Republican nominee over newcomer Sean Reyes.
Swallow has been campaigning for the job for some time, ever since Shurtleff appointed him his chief deputy.
In the end the race was not as close as many believed – Swallow ended up with around 70 percent of the vote.
Reyes may well have succumbed to a barrage of negative TV ads paid for by a Nevada-based Super PAC, whose donors where hidden behind new campaign law.
State Auditor Auston Johnson, who was unknown to many GOP voters despite being in office for 17 years, fell to state Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork.
Dougall, not a CPA, said all along that the office didn’t need a certified public accountant as leader. “I have an MBA, and we hire CPAs,” Dougall said. And his late radio ads about “Frugal Dougall” – a take off on the popular TV ads about the “most interesting man in the world,” seemed to catch the public’s attention.
Watch for Dougall to shake up the auditor’s office and conduct more “political” and aggressive management audits over the next four years.
Dougall will no doubt win the final election. And the odds are on Swallow as well.
Who can even remember the last Democratic state auditor? And while Utahns elected Democrats Paul Van Dam and Jan Graham in the early to mid-1990s to the AG office, Shurtleff held three terms with ease.
Conservative stalwart state Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, was defeated Tuesday by former Rep. Merrill Nelson in the redrawn House District 68.
This is a real knock-down for House conservatives. Wright is a strong supporter of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who appointed him to several top committee assignments.
Wright told UtahPolicy last week that the new House 68 “couldn’t have been drawn more perfectly” for a Tooele County-based GOP representative. Nelson is from Grantsville and recently has supported several reform-based movements, including an independent redistricting commission.
Wright sponsored the controversial guest-worker immigration bill in the 2011 Legislature – with Tea Party members hated – and the sex-ed bill of 2012, which GOP Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed. So Wright was getting criticized from both the conservative and liberal extremes.
But he laid his defeat not on philosophical politics as much as on geography – Tooele County makes up 50-60 percent of the new district, he told UtahPolicy, making it difficult for a county outsider to win.
Gone from the Utah House is Rep. Neal Hendrickson, D-West Valley, who was first elected in 1990.
Hendrickson was beaten by Liz Muniz, a Hispanic community activist who used new technology and neighborhood/Hispanic connections to down one of the longest-serving minority party stalwarts.
Hendrickson admitted to UtahPolicy some time ago that he really didn’t know how to run an intra-party primary, since he’s never had to do one in his 22 years in office.
Asked what the primary campaign meant to him, Hendrickson said it basically ruined his and his wife’s spring and early summer, a time each election cycle that he could coast, raising money, until fighting off a Republican in November.
Hendrickson was one of the last conservative Democrats in the House, voting with Republicans on some touchy issues, like passage of the much-hated HB477 in the 2011 Legislature.
A master of internal House procedures and rules, Hendrickson several years ago was put on House Rules in an attempt to get more Democratic-sponsored legislation out of the all-powerful sifting committee.
He was only partially successful.
If Muniz can hold on to the newly-drawn House District 33, much will be forgiven. But if she falls to the Republican candidate in the fall it will be the second time in as many elections that Utah Democrats lost a West Valley City seat. Former Sen. Brent Goodfellow, a Democrat who served a long time in the House with Hendrickson, was upset by Sen. Dan Thatcher, R-West Valley, in 2010.
And Josie Valdez was well on her way to defeating former state Rep. Ty McCartney in Senate District 8 for the open seat being vacated by Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights.
If that race ends as it appeared late Tuesday night, it will be two Latinas defeating two white males in critical Democratic Salt Lake County legislative contests – perhaps a trend in local Democratic politics as reported earlier on UtahPolicy.
In other legislative races, Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, easily held off a challenge by Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, beating the car dealer by nearly 2-to-1 in Senate District 24.
Freshman Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, fell to House Rep. Evans Vickers, R-Cedar City, in a race that was not as close as some politicos predicted.
So the GOP Senate caucus will have at least one new member in what may be close leadership elections after the November general election.
Northern Utah GOP House members last year forced freshmen Reps. Lee Perry, R-Perry, and Brad Galvez, R-West Haven, into the same new district this election.
And Perry stomped Galvez handily Tuesday night.
Late Tuesday night Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, was in a tight race with Dana Layton in House District 60. Daw was the victim of an anonymous mailer in the primary, leading to complaints of unfair campaigning.
With 65 percent of the vote in Layton held a small lead.
Finally, in the GOP Salt Lake County mayor’s race Mark Crockett beat Mike Winder by a very slim margin.
With 100 percent of the vote in, out of 68,723 votes cast Crockett got 239 more votes – officially 50.17 to 49.83 percent.
The real “loser” here may be the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake.
McAdams was licking his chops at the chance to run against Winder and his Richard Burwash pen name ethical lapse in judgment of last year.
The West Valley City mayor wrote several articles for the Deseret News and KSL.com under the Burwash pen name, only later admitting who really wrote the pro-West Valley City pieces.
McAdams is way ahead in fund raising, a task Crockett, a former county councilman, must now address.
But in a final election, with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, and with Salt Lake County Republicans apparently well organized, it will be a close general election.
Julie Dole, county GOP chair, blogged Tuesday that more than 90 percent of the absentee ballots the county party generated among party loyalists were ultimately cast.
That is a remarkable achievement, and should give McAdams and the Salt Lake County Democratic Party cause for concern.
A bit of inside baseball: The Utah Elections Office web site was way slow for some interested viewers Tuesday night. And a “glitch” in online web programming removed the long list of all candidates who filed for office this year, leaving those who wished to see who the November opponents were for the folks who won party nominations Tuesday up the hi-tech stream without a paddle.
Oh, and by the way, Mitt Romney won more than 90 percent of the Utah GOP vote for president.
I got a kick out of CNN. Just after the polls closed at 8 p.m., CNN projected that Romney would win the Utah GOP primary. Now there is some tough national news projections for you.
You can see the Utah federal, state and legislative primary election results at: http://electionresults.utah.gov/main.html.
The Salt Lake County results are at: https://secure.slco.org/clerk/elections/results/public.