Three big questions for election night 2017

The marquee matchup on election night in the Beehive State this year is the special election in CD3 to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Congress.

Republican John Curtis should win this race handily. Polls show him with a nearly 30-point lead, and there’s no reason for him to get too worried about losing to either Democrat Kathie Allen or the United Utah Party’s Jim Bennett. 

But, there are a couple of questions that still need answers.

How big of a loss to Curtis will discourage Allen from mounting another campaign next year? 

She has raised (and spent) more than $800,000 to try and beat Curtis, and the polling shows she’s not moving the needle. If she loses by 30+ points, will that sort of walloping keep her from coming back for seconds next year? Most losing candidates have two years to lick their wounds between Congressional races. The filing deadline for the 2018 election is just 132 days after the 2017 election. 

If Allen decides to run again, she probably won’t have the same amount of cash as she did this time around. She’ll still attract some donors, but Jason Chaffetz won’t be around to suggest poorer Americans spend their money on health insurance instead of the new iPhone. Those comments proved to be a fundraising boon for Allen and catapulted her to national attention. 

CD3 is already a tough hill to climb for Democrats in Utah. A blowout loss won’t help Allen’s cause in 2018. She needs to crack 30% to be taken seriously in 2018. That’s a level of support Democrats haven’t hit in CD3 since Christian Burridge more than a decade ago. If she can’t, then expect a repeat next year.

If Curtis wins in less than convincing fashion, will he get a GOP challenger next year? 

Numerous Republicans say Curtis is developing a kink in his neck looking over his shoulder worrying about a serious intra-party challenger next year. The conventional wisdom is Curtis will not be vulnerable since he’ll only have been in office for four months when the filing deadline hits next March. A big win on Tuesday might discourage other Republicans from jumping into the race next year.

What percentage of the vote will Jim Bennett get as a third-party candidate? 

A Bennett win would be shocking, and it’s not gonna happen. But, getting into the double-digits is not out of the question. If he does get above 10%, that could catapult the UUP into semi-relevance next year, which is where the new party needs to make some serious noise. Right now, the party is all about Bennett. They need to show that voters are at least interested in their message to attract candidates, and voters, next year. If they can’t, they’re likely doomed to also-ran status like the Libertarian or Independent American parties.