Bob Bernick: Political Predictions for 2014

As a 35-year observer or Utah’s political scene, what do I see coming in 2014?

Here are a few predictions.


Take them for what they are – just one guy’s educated guesses:

— Next year won’t be a good one for former Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow.

If criminal charges don’t jump up to bite them, they will continue to be the poster boys for poor ethics and questionable associations.

— Don’t see much in the way of significant campaign finance reform, even though the actions of Shurtleff and Swallow certainly call for it.

— In the 2014 elections Utah’s congressional delegation will become all Republican for the first time since the late 1990s.

With Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, deciding to retire from the 4th District, there won’t be another Democrat that can win a U.S. House seat in Utah.

We already have two GOP U.S. senators.

So, the “Fab 6” representing Utah in Congress will be red, red, red.

— According, U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Jason Chaffetz will all win re-election.

I don’t know who will win the 4th District, although Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is now the leader. But whoever the new representative will be, male or female, they will be a Republican.

— With Matheson stepping down in 2014, and with Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, also stepping out of a safe seat for her, the dynamics of looking toward future higher office is changing.

It used to be that a rising politician wanted to run from an incumbency.

But Matheson clearly sees a U.S. House seat as a detriment to seeking higher office – like the governorship – in 2016.

As does Lockhart. While at least four former Utah House speakers went on to higher office – one governor and three U.S. House members – the last few who tried that route lost.

Clearly, some time out of office is now being seen as a better approach.

— There will be no tax hikes coming out of the 2014 Legislature.

— The Utah Attorney General’s election could be a real free for all, with all candidates claiming to be the one who can clean up the office and its lagging reputation.

I still give the edge to the ultimate Republican nominee.

Utah did have two good Democratic AGs back in the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

But no Democratic candidate has come close to winning a statewide race since. I don’t see the miracle Democratic AG candidate on the horizon, either.

— With the retirement of state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, its possible Democrats could lose that seat.

In the 29-member Senate, Democrats may actually drop to just four seats – an historic low.

That would mean all the Senate Democrats would be in a minority leadership post – since there are four of those: minority leader, whip, assistant whip and caucus manager.

Hard to believe, but it’s not beyond the realm.

— Even though Republicans in the Legislature are talking about doing something about air quality this year, don’t count on much.

Why? Because there’s not a lot that can be done in the short term.

The real solution is electric cars, trucks and busses. You check those prices lately? Or miles driven before a recharge? Not to mention that outside of garage plug ins, there’s not much infrastructure.

In his first round as California Governor, Jerry Brown (Gov. Moonbeam) suggested putting huge fans on the mountains west of the LA basin and blow the pollution east.

You think we could get those Great Salt Lake pumps going again and pump the bad air into the West Desert?

— Finally, a prediction, that if it comes true, would likely be a huge political change for Utah.

I’m talking about Count My Vote.

By mid-April, the CMV folks need to gather around 102,000 signatures of registered Utah voters.

If they reach that top goal (actually, they want around 140,000 signatures just to be sure), and if they can get 10 percent of voters’ signatures in 26 of 29 state Senate districts, then there will be a real battle over the summer and fall.

Look for Utah GOP bosses to do some desperate stuff.

After the CMV signatures are turned in, opponents to CMV will have around a month to contact the signees and ask them to officially remove their names from the petitions.

Almost assuredly, Republicans will use their party membership lists – gathered at the March mass meetings and from previous closed GOP primary voting – to contact registered Republicans and ask them to take their names off.

I see the GOP Central Committee even adopting a rule whereby if a registered Republican signed the CMV petition they would be purged from local party offices, like precinct chair, or legislative chair, and such.

The party bosses HATE CMV, for it would take away the power of 4,000 or so elected delegates to pick, in many cases, the candidates to county, legislative, state and federal offices.

In many parts of Utah, whomever the GOP nominee is wins the final election. Democrats have little chance of winning, or they don’t even put up a candidate.

Various studies by pollsters and political scholars show that party delegates are farther to the right for the GOP and farther to the left for Democrats.

That means our elected representatives are more extreme in their views than are rank-and-file party members, certainly more extreme than most voters.

CMV, if it makes it to the 2014 general election ballot, would allow any candidate to get on his party’s primary ballot if he or she gets signatures of 2 percent of the registered party voters in their district. Or statewide for offices of governor, AG and U.S. senator.

Expect several bills in the 2014 Legislature to address the CMV effort in some way.

Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, will have one that gives the alternative route to the ballot as an option only. Candidates could still go through convention.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, has a more complicated compromise: Unless political parties adopted a variety of caucus/convention reforms, then the CMV route would be available. But if the parties do adopt those reforms, the CMV route is outlawed.

Something will pass the 2014 Legislature, I predict, on candidate nominations.

However, Bramble starts his legislation with the convention nomination level at 65 percent, just above the current 60 percent threshold.

That is still too low for CMV-backers.

Anyway, I don’t see legislative efforts derailing CMV.

I see that petition making the ballot and passing next November.

Then we’ll see what kind of lawsuits head to court.



(Editor’s note: UtahPolicy publisher LaVarr Webb is on the CMV board.)