Bernick Mug 01

Welcome to Bob Bernick’s pre-primary “who will win” column.

Editor’s Note: The candidates Mr. Bernick picks to win next Tuesday, primary election day in Utah, may not actually win. By that I mean they may actually lose.

But like betting with your friends on who will win the Super Bowl, or what the score may be after each quarter, the following column is meant to be fun.

Well, fun for some.

Certainly not for the candidates, their families or close friends who have given so much over the last six months (or last year, in the case of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox et al.).

Anyway, take Mr. Bernick’s picks as just that -- one man’s picks.

Now, admittedly, Mr. Bernick has been a newspaper/political online reporter for 40 years in Utah.

That should count for something -- or not, depending on your point of view.

So, are you ready for his picks? (Yes, you dope, we were ready for them in this column’s lead.)

GOVERNOR

I see former Gov. Jon Huntsman narrowly beating out Cox when all the mail-in/drive-through ballots are counted, sometime in July.

This win could be just a few thousand votes. Very close.

If it comes (in other words, if Cox, the poll leader, doesn’t hold on to win), it will be because of all the previous non-registered-Republicans who joined the Utah GOP over the last month or so -- upwards of 45,000 people. The state’s main party holds closed primaries, you must be a registered Republican to cast a ballot.

It’s true that all four of the GOP candidates -- Cox, Huntsman, former House Speaker Greg Hughes and former state GOP chairman Thomas Wright -- support President Donald Trump.

The political reality is that all must do so or they wouldn’t have a chance in the Republican gubernatorial primary this year.

But Trump is disliked in Utah -- especially among those new GOP voters, I’m guessing.

And while Huntsman says he supports Trump, has run ads with him standing with the president in the Oval Office, Huntsman is seen, I believe, as the least Trump loyalist. Thus, the natural choice for the new GOP voters.

Anyway, Huntsman is rich, good looking, is the older of the candidates with silver in his hair. He is a man to be trusted, some would say, with the troubles Utah is facing these days -- especially the coronavirus and its health and economic problems.

Hughes and Cox certainly have pathways to victory Tuesday. But Hughes has tied himself strongly to the arch-conservative wing of the Utah GOP, and his base is not being expanded by new folks coming into the party -- they are already in the party.

Cox’s support (he leads Huntsman by 4 percentage points in the last UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News poll by Y2 Analytics) is soft, I’m guessing. If there is a non-traditional Republican wave it will flow over Cox. Our polling shows among those who are independents who “lean” Republican and may register GOP and vote in the primary, Huntsman is ahead of Cox, 58-26 percent. That is a huge advantage -- if those folks really do come into the party.

Wright doesn’t have a chance -- he never did catch on. But he acquitted himself well and could do fine in future elections.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

AG Sean Reyes holds on to defeat Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, even though I see Leavitt making a run at Reyes in the final vote tallies.

Leavitt was just too far behind in the polls -- double digits.

This has been the nastiest GOP primary in years. And if we weren’t all distracted by the coronavirus, Leavitt may have had a shot at Reyes. But not enough voters paying attention to this contest.

1st CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

I see Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson holding on to win in this four-way battle. He’s led in the polls -- although not by much -- and he’s a more moderate candidate than some of the others.

If the GOP new-voter wave comes, it should just pick up Stevenson and wash him first on to the beach.

4th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

This is the toughest to pick, for me.

Common sense says it should be right-winger Burgess Owens, who leads in recent polls over state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan.

Both are appealing to the arch-conservative traditional GOP voter.

If they split that vote, I see room for moderate Republican, former KSL Radio talk show host, Jay McFarland slipping through to a narrow victory.

This assumes, as well, that there is a big Salt Lake County new-GOP-voter wave. This could be an upset win of just a few hundred votes for McFarland -- if it comes.

If not, then I’m going with Owens -- whose nomination would be a godsend for freshman Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, D-UT.

The smart GOP vote in the 4th District would be for McFarland, as he may have a chance against McAdams.

But time and again conservative Utah voters don’t take the smart route -- they stick to their political guns, literally, and shoot themselves in the foot in the final general election.

So, it’s Huntsman, Reyes, Stevenson and McFarland. (OK, maybe Owens).

P.S. I know there is a Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District. I have no idea who will win that one. I’d have to Google just to see who the two candidates are, I’m that ill-informed.

There are also a few legislative primaries on Tuesday. In a couple, GOP incumbents who voted for (then to repeal) the food-tax-hiking reforms may be in trouble. I don’t have a feel for those individual races, but expect some upsets in GOP legislative primary contests, where one incumbent House member has already been ousted in his delegate convention vote last April.

Remember, as always, to vote. Mail-in that ballot.

Or, if you are already registered, but not as a Republican, if your county has drive-through voting on Tuesday you can register as a Republican and get a GOP ballot and vote in that manner. Or vote by car in the Democratic primary if you are an independent or Democratic-registered voter.