Predictions for Tuesday’s Primaries

Did you know Tuesday is primary day in Utah?


UtahPolicy readers probably do – being the political junkies they are.

But you wouldn’t know it was primary day by watching TV advertising – there have been no candidate commercials because there are no major races to be voted on Tuesday.

Still, for several incumbent Utah legislators and county officials, Tuesday could well decide their political futures.

And because Utah is so overwhelmingly Republican in most areas, Tuesday’s election will be the defacto final election – for even if there is a Democrat on November’s general election ballot they have no realistic chance of winning.

That’s the case in Orem’s House District 60 and Cedar City’s House District 72 and Senate District 28, with its home ground in Cedar City, as well.

So, who does your intrepid reporter (me) believe will win these races?

Below are my predictions.

First, my standard disclaimer: My picks, while relatively informed and with more than 30 years experience in Utah political reporting, are nothing more than one guy’s guesses.

I’ve been right before. And I’ve been terribly wrong before.

With that in mind, I say:

— Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, will, once again, defeat former Sen. Casey Anderson, who held the seat before he was defeated by then-Rep. Vickers two years ago.

(Senators serve four-year terms. But in the 2011 redistricting the Cedar City-based district was slated for only a two-year term to equalize Utah Senate terms overall.)

Vickers had the record-setting goal of raising $100,000 for a state Senate primary. And he’s gotten close.

The pre-primary financial filings show Vickers grew an $81,000 war chest.

That’s 11 times more than the $7,445 that Anderson raised.

Anderson actually came within one delegate vote of getting 60 percent of the vote in the state GOP convention – and thus eliminating Vickers.

Delegates are often more conservative than GOP primary voters, and Vickers, I believe, with his great advantage in fund raising (along with endorsements from a number of GOP lawmakers and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert) should better Vickers, who operates local pharmacies in central Utah.

While this race has several elements, one remains Vickers vote in favor of SB54 in the last general session.

That is the “grand compromise” bill sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, which put into state law a dual pathway to a political party’s primary ballot.

Anderson says he would have voted against SB54, which ended up passing the Senate 21-7.

The new law, which takes effect for the 2016 elections unless greatly changed by the 2015 Legislature, weakens the delegate’s strong hold over party candidates, and allows candidates to gather voter signatures to get on the primary ballot, bypassing delegates completely if the candidate so wishes.

It made sense that delegates would object to their neutering – and the 2014 county and state party conventions were the place to take out their displeasure.

Rep. John Westwood, R-Cedar City, also voted for SB54, and he faces Blake Cozzens, chair of the Iron County Republican Party, on Tuesday.

While SB54 is part of that intra-party race, Cozzens was criticized by State Party Chairman James Evans for challenging an incumbent officeholder while refusing to resign his party office.

The state party bylaws say party officers at all levels can’t take sides in an intra-party race – and Evans says Cozzens’ challenge of Westwood certainly fits that criteria. Cozzens disagrees.

— In any case, I’m saying that Westwood holds on to this House seat on Tuesday.

Finally, in a very bitter contest former Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, is running again for his old House seat, trying to dislodge freshman Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem.

This race has all kinds of twists and turns.

Daw was secretly attacked in his 2012 re-election by former AG John Swallow and his campaign top aide, Jason Powers.

Powers, who worked with Utah’s payday loan industry, raised more than $400,000 for Swallow’s election, and for Daw’s defeat.

Using the shield of a 501(c)4 nonprofit foundation, Powers hid all contributions to his Proper Role of Government Defense Fund.

Daw’s district was hit with a dozen negative campaign fliers – one saying he supported Obamacare, which he never did.

You can read a good wrap-up of that race in this Salt Lake Tribune story.

Layton said she was never part of Power’s negative campaign against Daw – run because Daw attempted to put some controls on Utah’s payday loan industry.

However, Layton did accept campaign signs and a donation just before the 2012 primary – donations that by law were not reported until after she defeated Daw in that primary.

Now they face each other again.

— And I’m picking Daw to take back his old seat.

Layton says GOP primary voters see Daw as just a complainer and poor-loser from two years ago.

I’m thinking they are smarter than that, and that such dirty politics will not be rewarded – even if Layton says she had nothing to do with the 2012 negative campaign barrage against Daw.

There are several other intra-party legislative races on Tuesday – mostly among non-incumbents seeking to challenge a legislator in November or win their party’s nomination in an open seat.

And there are any number of county office primaries, including some in Salt Lake County.

You should be able to see all the results on the Utah state Elections Office web site on Wednesday.

And if you have a primary on Tuesday, go vote.