One reason that it’s important to start a legislative campaign early – and a must to start a statewide campaign early – is because while the election calendar may seem drawn out and too long to the layman, political experts know there are days of great stress and time constraints.
Legislative candidates who have an intra-party challenger, and statewide candidates and those running for the U.S. House, are jamming their days trying to meet their party delegates.
These may number several dozen in the case of a GOP Utah House candidate, to 4,000 in the case of U.S. Senate, governor and state auditor and treasurer.
GOP U.S. House candidates – with the new four seats for Utah in 2012 – each have 1,000 delegates. Democrats historically have fewer county and state delegates than do Utah’s majority Republican Party, but in tough contests like Salt Lake County mayor, state Sens. Ross Romero and Ben McAdams, both Democrats, have their work cut out for them.
For legislative seats wholly residing in one county, those delegate votes will come in the individual county conventions, some of which are already upon us.
For state House and Senate districts with cross county boundaries, those votes take place at the state conventions, but the delegates are only within those specific districts.
The Salt Lake County GOP and Democratic conventions are both on Saturday, April 14, just two weeks away.
The state GOP and Democratic conventions are both a week later, on April 21.
This is the first time I can remember that the state conventions are in April.
In the past they have been, I believe, on the first or second Saturday in May.
But some national election rule changes have pushed up the spring party conventions.
That means if there are party primaries this year, those two candidates will have a longer (although by U.S. standards, still short) primary campaigns of nine weeks up to the June 26 ballot.
Then, of course, there is the long, hot summer where campaigns actually cool off until the early November general election voting.
In any case, let me profile today two legislative intra-party GOP elections – newly-appointed Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, with Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City; and Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, with Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.
In both cases, the House incumbents are taking on the senators in the newly-drawn Senate Districts 28 and 24, respectively.
While not always the case, a number of House members desire to move up to the Senate. While the pay is the same (too low, I always say), there are distinct advantages to being a senator in Utah as opposed to being a House member.
First, you get a four-year term, so you don’t have to run every two years – which can be a real pain in the neck.
Secondly, because there are only 29 senators, even freshmen (especially freshman Republicans) get immediate power. All GOP senators chair committees of one sort or another.
That power leads quickly to hefty campaign donations. While it does cost more money, on average, to run a Senate race over a House race, you have four years to fund raise opposed to two and you usually get bigger contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups seeking influence in the Senate – because they only have to give to 29 senators as opposed to 75 House members.
All one has to do is watch where the heavy-weight lobbyists spend their time – you see most of them outside of the Senate Chambers as opposed to outside of the House.
In any case, Painter and Vickers want to move up to the Senate. And they have to dislodge sitting GOP colleagues to get there.
As I have recently, I turn to BYU political science professor Adam R. Brown for a comparison between the Vickers/Anderson votes in the 2012 Legislature (the first for Anderson, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Dennis Stowell.)
Brown also compared the votes of Painter and Okerlund from the 2009 Legislature (when Okerlund was first elected) through the 2012 general session.
You can read Brown’s comparison for yourself here, his web site.
A bit surprisingly is how often Vickers and Anderson disagreed in just one session. Brown finds they voted differently 11.3 percent of the time.
For two GOP conservatives, that is a high number. Most often, Brown’s comparisons in other GOP match-ups come closer to 2 or 3 percentage point differences.
That’s what you see between Painter and Okerlund, who voted the same more than 97 percent of the time.
Vickers, a pharmacist, and Anderson, a statistical consultant and pollster whose largest client is the Utah Piute Tribe, faced each other in a delegate battle last year to replace Stowell. Anderson won, although with the newly-drawn district Vickers tells UtahPolicy he believes he has a better chance with the new GOP delegate pool.
None of that pair’s differences were over what I would call major legislation, although one bill caused quite a dustup between the House and Senate.
For example, Anderson voted to give the governor and Senate more power over higher education, including hiring of the higher ed commissioner. Vickers voted against it.
Anderson vote for six bills that Vickers voted against.
Anderson vote “no” on 18 bills that Vickers voted for, a rather large number.
Vickers voted for, and Anderson voted against, HB272, what turned out to be the controversial autism insurance pilot program desired by the House GOP caucus and pushed hard by House Republican leadership. The program would provide special health insurance for up to 800 autistic children two-to-six years old.
Senate Republicans groused about HB272 for much of the session, saying they weren’t properly consulted as the bill went forward and didn’t want to start a new insurance “mandate,” although House Republicans repeatedly denied that was the case.
Painter and Okerlund had no difference there, both voted for HB272.
In the 2012 session, Painter and Okerlund voted differently only five times, Brown found in his analysis.
In 2009 they differed just 3.1 percent; 2010 just 1.8 percent; 2011 just 2.3 percent; and 2012 just 2.6 percent of the time.
So, while GOP delegates in the Vickers/Anderson contest (the vote will come in the April 21 state convention) can look to the men’s 2012 voting records to see some differences, delegates in the Painter/Okerlund race (also in the state convention) likely will have to go on personality, experience or other criteria to make their choices.
The GOP nominee in the Painter/Okerlund race will certainly be in the 2013 Legislature – no Democrat filed for that seat.
There is a Democrat in the Vickers/Anderson contest – Geoffrey Chesnut – but no Democrat has held that seat in years.