Twelve-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, R-Holladay, who has routinely won re-elections easily, is being challenged by political newcomer Republican Anne-Marie Lampropoulos.
Between the two candidates, the House 37 contest could run over $100,000, one of the most expensive in Utah history.
Anne-Marie is the wife of well-known Republican supporter/candidate Fred Lampropoulos, who ran for governor in 2004 and runs and is a major stockholder in Merit Medical.
A year before his actual gubernatorial candidacy Fred Lampropoulos ran brief radio commentaries – like the value of the Boy Scouts and the dangers of deficit government spending -- on KSL Radio and other stations.
The commentaries ended with: “This is Fred Lampropoulos, and I just thought you’d like to know.”
And thus the name Lampropoulos became familiar to tens of thousands of Utahns.
Moss is well known in the Holladay area as a 30-year English teacher at Olympus High School.
GOP Utah leaders this year believe the time is ripe for taking the seats of several eastside Salt Lake County House and Senate Democrats.
Some may see this as piling on – a football phrase where members of the stronger team pile onto a tackled opponent when he is down and indefensible.
But it’s the job of political party leaders to win every seat they can, by the largest majorities they can.
Sympathy is in short supply in partisan politics.
The feeling is, if Moss can be taken out in 2012, what then becomes of less well known Democratic incumbents like Reps. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, and Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights?
Then there’s the open Democratic Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights.
County and state Republicans consider that Senate seat vulnerable, where Josie Valdez, the Democrat, faces Republican Brian Shiozawa.
Historically, it is always easier to take away from the incumbent party an open seat.
Moss says she’s defending her newly-drawn House District 37 as she has before – walking, walking and more walking of neighborhoods.
You can view the new District 37 map here. It roughly runs from I-15 east to Wasatch Boulevard and from the Murray Holladay Road/4500 South south to Vine Street/6200 South.
GOP lawmakers, who controlled the redistricting process, kept Moss in her home district, but shifted the district further south and west. Moss now lives in the northeastern part of District 37 and picks up areas where she has not been on the ballot before.
Moss tells UtahPolicy she is not in panic mode, but working “the ground game” as hard as she as she can – walking house to house and not bothering with folks who, voter registrations show, don’t vote.
“I think you win these (legislative) seats face-to-face on voters’ doorsteps,” she said.
Anne-Marie Lampropoulos says she is also walking the district, and believes this will be a very good election with Mitt Romney at the top of the Utah GOP ballot.
“My goal is to raise $50,000, and I’m well on the way to do that,” Lampropoulos told UtahPolicy. She is proud of the fundraising she’s been able to do within the district and within the state.
“I’m not planning; don’t think I’ll need” to draw on family funds nor on a lot of state GOP cash, she said.
Still, money always plays a role.
Fred Lampropoulos has over recent years been one of the largest financial backers of Republicans, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to various candidates and causes.
Fred is the board chairman and CEO of Merit Medical, a successful medical equipment firm home-based in South Jordan.
He’s also a big giver to the Utah Republican Party over the last decade.
Anne-Marie Lampropoulos has been the director of communications for Merit Medical for eight years.
“I haven’t put money in so far” from the family “and I haven’t received any more help in my campaign” than other GOP legislative candidates, even though her brother, Thomas Wright, is state GOP chairman.
So, between Fred and Thomas, personal cash and party money and other non-financial aide could be overflowing into Anne-Marie’s Utah House race.
So far that is not been the case, although most legislative campaign cash is spent in the final two months of any election.
That’s when fliers go out and there’s in-house telephone calling, turn out the vote, and perhaps even some radio ads hitting the airwaves.
“My biggest challenge in this election is that I could be buried under a ton of money,” said Moss.
Her most expensive race was several years ago when she spent around $42,000 and her GOP opponent spent more than $60,000. “That was the year of the (private school) voucher,” Moss recalled. “And it was very expensive for all of us.”
Moss says she believes she could raise $50,000 this year, if need be. “And I have a line of credit with the UEA (the main teacher union in the state) of $1,500 – I don’t know if I’ll use all of that yet.”
And Anne-Marie Lampropoulos could call on various sources of cash, as well.
Fred Lampropoulos and his Merit Medical Systems and employees have donated $462,600 to various state and federal campaigns and parties from 2004 to 2012, says the FollowTheMoney web site.
Moss carried over $20,000 from her 2010 campaign. Including that amount, she’s raised $33,350 this year and has $21,012 in cash, as of the Aug. 31 filing deadline.
Anne-Marie Lampropoulos has raised $29,302 and has $19,350 in cash, the latest filings show.
“Anne-Marie has sent out several fliers already, really blanketed the district,” said Moss. “She’s also had two telephone polls, one of which actually called me. So I got to vote for myself.”
Moss says she was offended by one of the telephone surveys, which she called a “push poll” because the automated call asked several “inaccurate” questions about Moss’ legislative voting record.
Another poll asked if the answerer knew that Anne-Marie was a strong backer of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and would defend Utah values in the Utah House as Hatch does in Washington.
“It is clear to me,” said Moss, “that Anne-Marie is running away from her Republican Party. Her fliers don’t identify her as a Republican, there’s no elephant symbol on them. She says she belongs to the “no labels” political party.
“But her brother is the state party chairman. What is that about?”
Anne-Marie Lampropoulos says she’s not running away from anything. “I’m proud to be a Republican. I’m so identified on my web site and on my Facebook page. I just don’t believe that any party has all the answers.
“I’ll listen to anyone, from liberal to conservative, and include them” in her decision-making process, she said.
Good-thinking independents, Democrats and Republicans are needed to solve Utah’s problems, she said.
Anne-Marie Lampropoulos adds that while creating a better education system for Utah’s youth is her No. 1 goal, she is also adept at business and job creation.
“I know how to create jobs; how to structure a business to survive. Overregulation by government is never good. We must grow our economy and maintain the jobs we have,” she said.
Moss says it’s natural for a challenger to a long-time officeholder to argue it is time for a change – as Anne-Marie is doing today.
“That’s what I did in 2000 when I beat (former GOP House member) Ray Short,” said Moss.
“But do we really need to add another Republican vote to the super-majority they already have” in the House? Asks Moss.
The 2011-2012 House has 58 Republicans to 17 Democrats.
“It’s time for a new voice on Capitol Hill after 12 years by the incumbent,” says Lampropoulos. “We must do better by education.”
Still, Moss says House Republicans may have actually done her a favor by moving her district boundaries the way they did.
“Yes, 45 percent of my district is new to me. But I’m pretty well known in Murray. Many of the 10,000 kids I taught (at Olympus High School) live there now.
“My maiden name is Snarr. Dan Snarr (Murray mayor) is a cousin. People I’ve met walking – and I’m concentrating on those areas new for me – are receptive to that.”
Says Lampropoulos: “This is going to be a very exciting election. Yes, the stalwarts will come out. We have Mitt at the top of the ticket; but we also have interesting congressional races. Compelling county mayor’s race, as well as the legislative contests. Voter turnout is going to be very high. That’s always a good thing, but will help me and other Republicans, also.”
You can read Moss’ candidacy declaration here.
Lampropoulos has a website here. Project Vote Smart has a breakdown of Lampropoulos’ contributions here.
The web site FollowTheMoney has an analysis report on Moss’ fundraising here.
You can read Anne-Marie Lampropoulos’ state financial filings here.
And you can see Moss’ financial filings here.
Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, Merit Medical and Fred Lampropoulos in the past were sponsors of UtahPolicy.com, contributing funds to the operation in return for ad space on the web site’s homepage. Neither Merit Medical nor Fred Lampropoulos currently sponsor UtahPolicy.com.