Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Open Doors

Will there be a legitimate moderate Republican candidate in the 2015 Salt Lake City mayor’s race?

For if there is, the primary election dynamics of the officially non-partisan race will change considerably.

On Monday, as expected, state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, said he is going to run.

Currently the only openly-gay member of the Legislature, Dabakis’ entry certainly shakes the race up.

Until then two other Democrats, City Councilman Luke Garrott, and former House member Jackie Biskupski, who is also gay, only had each other to fight in order to come out of the late-summer primary election with Becker.

Dabakis, a former Democratic Party chairman, certainly has a higher political profile in the city than Garrott or Biskupski.

And so Dabakis’ entry (he is also independently wealthy) into the race changes the dynamics – as Biskupski herself acknowledged.

But throw into the mix a legitimate GOP candidate – and one with his/her money to boot – and now you’ve got an interesting political stew.

Now, while the mayor’s race is officially nonpartisan (the candidate’s political party affiliation, if any, will NOT appear on the ballot by their name as it does in county, state and federal races), everyone who is paying any attention knows the candidates’ political leanings.

Becker, for example, at one time was the Utah House minority leader.

While we’ve had some politically moderate mayors in recent years – like Palmer DePaulis and Deedee Corradini – we’ve also had some liberal ones – like Rocky Anderson.

But in the end, for move than 40 years only Democrats have sat in the mayor’s office.

 We haven’t had an identifiable GOP mayor since Jake Garn resigned the post way back in 1974 to become a U.S. senator.

And in most of those mayoral races since the final election– winnowed down in the multi-candidate primary election – has had a Democrat and a Republican.

(Yes, there have been a few final elections were both candidates were Democrats.)

So, if a legitimate Republican gets into the mayor’s race this year, there is a good chance that he or she can come out of the primary along with Becker. (That would be the most likely result – since Becker remains popular, he would get the most votes – and the GOP candidate would draw the minority Republican votes in the city.)

If it was a Becker vs. a moderate Republican in the final – then history tells us the Democrat wins.

Accordingly, with the strong possibility that he or she would lose, what Republican wants to get into the Salt Lake City mayor’s race this year?

Well, it could be a relatively unknown candidate who wants to get some political chops, make a decent showing, and then run for Congress or some higher office down the road.

Could be an ego-boosting seeker who just hopes Becker will get struck down in some scandal, opening a door.

Or it could be a special interest person who wants a media/public platform to bring their cause(s) to a big stage.

Salt Lake City, after all, is the home of all the major media in the state and mayoral candidates – especially those in the final election – will get pretty good attention.

If a moderate Republican, who can spend some of his/her own cash on the race, gets in – all of a sudden Dabakis/Garrott/Biskupski find themselves really searching for votes in the primary election.

The GOP candidate will be appealing to his Republican base – which while a minority in the city are still numerous.

Becker will be appealing to his traditional supporters, who are many.

And only primary scraps will be left over for the other three to fight over.

Right now, the door is wide open for a moderate GOP candidate in the mayor’s race.

Is anyone going to walk through?