So, what did we learn from the 2018 elections in Utah?
U.S. GOP Rep. Mia Love is not a strong candidate in this very red state.
If she wins her race against Democrat Ben McAdams – McAdams leads but tens of thousands of votes are still to be counted – you can bet on Democrats – both nationally and locally – to be coming after her for re-elections to come.
If she loses, she is likely out of GOP politics in this state. Yeah, maybe she might try to run again for some office after redistricting in 2021, but she will be tagged with the “loser” moniker for a long time.
McAdams is a candidate for the future, win or lose. If he ends up losing this close race with Love, he remains Salt Lake County mayor and has two more years before the big 2020 election to groom himself for a governor’s run.
It’s unlikely that Utah would be ready for a Democratic governor in anytime soon. But if any Democrat could make a race of it, it would be McAdams.
By and large, Democrats did well in these midterms, especially in Salt Lake County.
If McAdams wins, it shows Democrats can be viable in the southwestern part of the county.
Actually, his good numbers show Democrats can do well all over the county.
A big win for the blues comes in Utah House District 32 in Draper/Sandy.
Dr. Suzanne Harrison, who lost to Rep. LaVar Christensen by just 5 votes two years ago, beat Republican Brad Bonham by 8 percentage points – a real pounding in this traditionally GOP seat. (Christensen ran for Senate and didn’t make it out of the Republican convention.)
Harrison showed county Democrats what is possible if you are well funded and basically run hard for two election cycles.
It reminds me of how successful Democrats were during the reign of former state Democratic chairman Wayne Holland, a union man who knew how to organize.
Holland got several Democratic candidates to promise to run at least three times in a row and promised to provide them with adequate funds. It took a few three elections to win a legislative seat – and a few never made it.
But walking, walking and walking – and getting to know voters in a Utah House urban district can work. If you really, really work yourself.
Democrats also picked up a state Senate seat on the county’s east side. That, too, is a big win – as the lackluster Senate Democrats have been stuck at just five members (out of 29) in recent years.
Democrats also won re-elections on the county council, sheriff, clerk and county attorney. And they knocked out of office appointed recorder Adam Gardner (who gave up his GOP Utah House seat to take the appointment), a big win for Democrat Rachelle Hobbs.
Democrats also got a state House seat in Ogden, District 10 -- Lou Shurtliff returning to the House after a long absence. It’s the first Democratic win in the House in Weber County for years, and a big one, 54-46 percent.
There were setbacks for Democrats, true.
Mitt Romney easily won the open U.S. Senate seat – and he even beat Democrat Jenny Wilson in Salt Lake County.
But no Democrat was going to beat Romney in Utah. Wilson did the best she could – and raised more money than any other recent Democrat in a Utah U.S. Senate race.
If McAdams wins the 4th District, look for Wilson (a current County Council member) to move up to mayor in what would be a crowded Democratic field of hopefuls.
And then there are the statewide ballot propositions:
All three passed, medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion, and independent redistricting commission.
We already know that GOP Gov. Gary Herbert will call lawmakers into a special session Dec. 3 to adopt a “compromise” medical marijuana law.
And look to the 2019 Legislature to somehow blunt both Medicaid expansion and the Better Boundaries initiatives.
But getting three initiatives on the ballot – lawmakers have already made it difficult to do so – and getting all three passed shows the Republicans in state power they had better watch their backs.
Citizens can bypass them if they continue to ignore big issues voters want.
What initiatives could we see down the road?
How about a new Count My Vote, if lawmakers don’t strengthen the SB54 law.
Or maybe a term-limit law applying to governors and legislators?
If legislators gut the independent redistricting commission, you may see some backlash there.
Finally, a constitutional amendment that will allow a supermajority of the Legislature to call itself into a special session passed.
Currently, only the governor has the power to call a special session; and only he sets the agenda.
Herbert spent $55,000 out of his personal PAC against the amendment. But it passed easily – perhaps because voters didn’t really know the backstory of this whole issue. (If you read UtahPolicy, you already know it.)
So, millions of dollars spent in Utah this election year, and we still don’t know some of the major race outcomes.
But overall, very high voter turnout.
So congratulations to all who cast a ballot.
And now soon the 2020 races begin.