Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Convention Predictions

Utah Republicans and Democrats meet this weekend in their 2014 candidate nomination conventions.


Both are held in Salt Lake County this time around, the Republicans in their usual place at the South Towne convention center in Sandy.

Democrats are meeting in the Salt Lake County Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, a relocation after chairman Jim Dabakis resigned his post and organizers believed the chairmanship race between Peter Corroon and Richard Davis could draw more delegates.

Here are my picks who will win the major intraparty races.

You can see all of the federal, state and legislative candidates here.

The Democratic chairmanship race between Corroon, the former Salt Lake County mayor, and Davis, a Brigham Young University professor, is the top draw among Utah’s minority party.

(You can read UtahPolicy Managing Editor Bryan Schott’s profile of the men here.)

Unlike candidate nomination races, which take 60 percent of the delegate vote to win in convention, the Democratic chair race is a simple majority.

I give this party office to Corroon.

First off, he’s well known and is from Salt Lake County – by far the largest Democratic delegate delegation.

Davis is from Utah County, where you can walk for miles before touching a Democrat.

Corroon and other party leaders are going to have to clean up – if that is the right word – after Dabakis.

While Dabakis leaves the state party in good financial shape, the party didn’t do that great a job of candidate recruitment this year.

Democrats are already bemoaning that they don’t have a candidate in the Utah County Commission A race.

Conservative GOP Utah County delegates dumped a popular county commissioner two weeks ago in favor of a man, it turns out, who has had multiple bankruptcies and a theft conviction.

But since there is no Democrat in that race, the new guy automatically will win the seat in November.

There is no U.S. Senate or governor’s race this year, and so far it’s been a quiet election season.

In the four U.S. House seats the incumbent three Republican congressmen all have GOP challengers – although weak ones:

— 1st Congressional District. Rep Rob Bishop – he of great hair – will 60 percent David Yu-Lin Chiu.

On the Democratic side, I see Donna McAleer winning the nomination over Peter Clemens. McAleer was Bishop’s Democratic opponent two years ago, losing badly in the final election.

— 2nd Congressional District. Freshman Rep. Chris Stewart should also win his party’s nomination outright at convention. He’s challenged by fellow Republicans Larry Meyers, Zachary Hartman and Vaughn Hatton.

It will be a bit of a moral defeat for Stewart if he doesn’t get 60 percent of the vote on the first ballot.

He may be pushed to a second, or even a third ballot, before winning, we’ll see.

A number of Utah politicos believed that Stewart would have a significant GOP challenger this year. That’s partly because of a real disaster in this race’s 2012 convention speeches/voting.

Hard feelings remain. But Stewart has proven a true, if somewhat boring, conservative representative.

Democratic state Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, is the lone minority party candidate in November.

— 3rd Congressional District. TV glamour boy Rep. Jason Chaffetz should have no trouble 60 percenting two GOP challengers, Robert Stevens and Mark Hedengren.

Chaffetz clearly has his eye on higher office. But he’s said many times he won’t challenge Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in 2016.

That leaves the open U.S. Senate seat of Sen. Orrin Hatch (assuming Hatch keeps his promise and retires) in 2018.

Democrat Brian Wonnacott will face Chaffetz in November.

— 4th Congressional District. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, turned what could have been an interesting race this year into a snoozer when he announced last December he wouldn’t seek the 4th District again.

Love barely lost to Matheson in 2012, and soon after let it be known she would go after him again this year.

Love surprised a number of folks when she won the GOP 4th District nomination outright in the 2012 convention, beating some good competition.

While a few GOP insiders tried to find a more moderate Republican to run against Love this year, in the end none believed they could beat her in the state GOP convention or primary.

Love faces Bob Fuehr Saturday, after Jennifer Johnson filed, but withdrew, from the GOP race.

Love will take out Fuehr.

She will then face Doug Owens, son of the late U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens, in November.

The day Matheson announced, D.C. pundits switched Utah’s 4th from “leaning Democratic” to “strong Republican.”

Owens told me earlier this year that he believes if he can make a credible showing against Love in early public opinion polls, he may be able to raise the outside money needed to be competitive.

But he’s got a problem with that.

Utah’s major media outlets don’t have much cash (read layoffs at The Salt Lake Tribune already this year).

The Deseret News/KLS-TV contract with Dan Jones & Associates ran out in January 2013.

Utah Data Points may be running some match-ups soon, but I haven’t seen anything definitive in the Love/Owens race yet.

So Owens is waiting on an independent, objective poll weighing him against Love.

There’s only one statewide race this year – Attorney General Sean Reyes must run to serve out the final two years of disgraced former AG John Swallow.

Some thought a Republican attorney would challenge Reyes, who was just appointed to the post several months ago by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert after Swallow resigned.

Reyes lost to Swallow in a bitter Republican primary in 2012.

But no Republicans filed against Reyes.

Democrat Charles Stormont will face Reyes in November.

While Democrats held the AG’s office in the early 1990s – the last statewide office Democrats had – don’t look for Reyes to be unseated this year.

The convention delegates Saturday will also vote on multi-county state House and Senate races – should there be any.

I don’t have an opinion on any open races (incumbents not running again) in these legislative contests.

The Evan Vickers/Casey Anderson GOP Senate District 28 race down in Cedar City should be interesting, since Anderson held the seat before Vickers took him out two years ago.

Vickers voted for SB54, the bill that basically blunts the current caucus/delegate/convention process come 2016. That, of course, angers many delegates.

Anderson told me he would have voted against it.

But Vickers has proven a good campaigner/fund raiser; he could eliminate Anderson.

More likely, Vickers may be forced into a primary by Anderson.

Although there is a slight possibility that Anderson could 60 percent Vickers, in a large part because of that SB54 “aye” vote.

How’s that for taking a stand?

In any case, many of the legislative races will be decided Saturday – or were decided in county GOP conventions over the last several weeks.

That’s because Utah is so overwhelmingly Republican – if a GOP candidate snags the nomination in convention, he coasts to final victory in November.

Democrats no longer hold any state House or Senate seats outside of Salt Lake County.

Recent Democratic gains in the House along the eastside of Salt Lake County have been rolled back – Republicans sit in those districts now.

With only five Senate seats, Democrats are at an all time low in the upper body.

With only 17 House seats, Democrats are close to their all time low of 15 seats out of 75.

Considering that House Democrats were within half a dozen seats of a majority back in the mid-1980s, things look bleak for the minority’s future today.

That is the situation Corroon inherits, as he tries to raise money, recruit candidates and re-enthuse Democrats for the critical 2016 elections.