Election Night 2014 a Good One for Utah’s Republicans

Mia Love is going to Congress.

She will make history, being the first African-American Republican woman in that body.

In the end, the 4th Congressional District race between Love and Democrat Doug Owens wasn’t as close as some believed it would be.

Final, but unofficial, counts put Love at 50.4 percent to Owens’ 46.75 percent, with the other votes going to the three minor party candidates.

It was not a surprise.

The final UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates last Thursday showed Love with a 5 percentage point lead over Owens, the oldest son of the late former U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens.

Love lost to retiring Rep. Jim Matheson by 768 votes two years ago; Tuesday night she won by 4,225.

These are unofficial tallies; a final canvas of all votes, including some disputed ballots, will come in several weeks.

But unlike two years ago, Love’s margin Tuesday night will likely stand up.

Comparing the final votes with analysis coming from the BYU College Exit Poll shows that in the end Owens didn’t get enough of the GOP vote and he didn’t win in Salt Lake County by a large enough majority to offset huge GOP votes for Love in Utah County.

Owens carried the Salt Lake County portion of the 4th District, 50.59 percent to Love’s 46.34 percent.

On the legislative side, Democratic numbers stayed the same in the 29-member Utah Senate.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay (Dan Jones wife) is retiring this year – and Republicans had hopes of taking that eastside Salt Lake County seat.

But former Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jani Iwamoto came through to hold that seat for Democrats, handily beating Republican Sabrina Petersen.

So, the Senate will stay 24-5 for Republicans, a more than two-thirds super majority.

In the 75-member House, Democrats actually picked up one seat – perhaps more importantly a Carbon County-based seat lost to Republicans two years ago.

Before Tuesday, Democrats held only seats in Salt Lake County – nothing outside of it.

Former House Democratic leader Brad King, who lost a Senate race four years ago, won back the District 69 seat.

In the 2011 redistricting, Republicans moved House 69 more into Unitah Basin, a Republican stronghold.

But Roosevelt car dealer Bill Labrum – who defeated Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, in the state GOP convention — couldn’t hold the seat for the majority party.

The House goes from a 61-14 GOP majority to a 60-15 majority – still more than two-thirds for Republicans.

The close legislative races all tilted toward the incumbents.

Rep. Larry “landslide” Wiley, D-West Valley, who won by only 77 votes in 2012, was ahead by 33 votes Tuesday night over Sophia DiCaro, a Republican hot shot who many predicted would unseat Wiley.

That House District 32 race will likely go to a recount. State law says any race where the margin is the same or less than the number of voting precincts is automatically recounted.

There are just 20 voting districts in House 33, so DiCaro and the Republicans will have to ask for a recount – should she still be behind after the canvass.

Democrat Mike Lee outpolled former Rep Fred Cox in House District 30 – an open Democratic seat as Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley, is retiring.

All told, there will be 13 new faces in the 75-member House come January, eight Republicans and five Democrats.

But two of those, King and former Rep. Brad Daw of Orem, are returning to the House and so really are veterans of legislative work.

Democratic Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill won reelection, as did Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, also a Democrat.

So while Democrats did not make any headway in legislative races in Salt Lake County, Democrats can win in the county.

Republicans will still control the Salt Lake County Council, one Democrat won Tuesday night (Jenny Wilson), but another, former Murray Mayor Dan Snarr, lost.

All along, Owens was under-funded compared to Love – she raised nearly $5 million to Owens nearly $700,000 – a 5-to-1 overpowering funding lead that allowed her to inundate TV and radio advertising.

With the clear – but rather closer than expected victories – of the three other GOP U.S. House incumbents, Reps. Rob Bishop in the 1st District, Chris Stewart in the 2nd, and Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd District – Utah once again has an all-Republican federal delegation.

Attorney General Sean Reyes made short work of Democrat Charles Stormont in the only statewide race.

That, also, was expected.

While Democrats have to be disappointed by Owens’ loss – one small-sample poll even had Owens ahead a week ago — they can, perhaps, take some small solace in the fact Democrat Luz Robles came closer to Stewart than expected, as did Democrat Donna McAleer in the Bishop race.

With Stewart’s rather poor showing against Robles (who keeps her Salt Lake City-based state Senate seat), perhaps some moderate Democrat (preferably wealthy and can spend his own money) may take out after Stewart in 2016.

Bishop said he hopes to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, saying he will run the committee differently, try to work out compromises with other House committees while looking forward to a Senate controlled by Republicans.

While Senate Democrats may be able to filibuster some GOP House legislation, with Republicans in the majority more conference committees between the House and Senate will be used, said Bishop.

Republicans winning control of the U.S. Senate means, “It’s puts (conference committees) back into play,” said Bishop, and that will be a good thing.