Editor’s Note: UtahPolicy.com is reviewing several Utah legislative races this general election, with an eye toward those which have been close in the past in final vote counts.
Utah State House Rep. Craig Hall is a moderate GOP lawmaker -- he may not like that title -- who often works across the aisle to achieve his goals.
But while he may have Democratic friends in the House, the Utah Democratic Party wants him gone -- replaced by a Democrat who may just fit in better with his West Valley City-centered District 33.
Hall’s challenger this year is a bona fide progressive/Democrat.
Fatima Dirie, whose history and stands on issues are here, is a woman of color who works in Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s office as a liaison policy advisor to the refugee/new American population of the city.
And Hall’s seat just may be one that Democrats can pick up this election year.
In 2018 Hall, his website is here, won re-election by just 464 votes out of 8,036 cast, or 52.9 percent for Hall and 47.1 percent for the then-Democratic candidate Ira Hatch.
That “blue wave” election saw a white male Mormon Republican (Hall) against a white male likely-Mormon (at least by his last name) Democrat.
And it was close.
This year’s election is different -- at least on the outside looking in. But it may turn out a rerun of sorts of 2012 and 2014, when Hall beat Democrat Liz Muniz (twice) by a few percentage points each time.
This is Hall's fifth election. In the first two, he beat a Democratic woman of color. Third election he beat a Democratic white guy.
Now he’s up against a woman of color again.
But the district’s political make-up is changing, more minorities moving in and such. Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2018, there were 136,401 people in West Valley City. The racial makeup of the city was 65.37% White, 1.96% African American, 1.26% Native American, 4.97% Asian, 3.64% Pacific Islander, 18.96% from other races, and 3.85% from two or more races.
And District 33 voters are not very partisan.
According to L2 Political data, independent/unaffiliated active voters make up the largest segment in the urban/suburban district:
Republicans - 29.5%
Democrats - 24%
Unaffiliated - 41.6%
2012 Presidential election:
Romney - 52.69%
Obama - 44.21%
2016 Presidential election:
Clinton - 44.63%
Trump - 31.45%
McMullin - 16.23%
2018 Senate election:
Wilson - 47.27%
Romney - 45.67%
Prop. 2 (Legalizing medical marijuana) - Passed with 69.08% of the vote.
Prop. 3 (Medicaid expansion) - Passed with 64.63% of the vote.
Prop. 4 (establishing independent redistricting commission) - Passed with 56.20%.
Hillary Clinton won the district four years ago. And look at that vote in favor of medical marijuana just two years ago -- 69 percent in favor.
The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate two years ago -- Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson -- even beat Republican Mitt Romney in the district, 47.27 percent to 45.67 percent. That’s very telling and no doubt one of the reasons Hatch came within 464 votes of Hall -- the Senate race was the top of the ballot.
GOP President Donald Trump is on the ballot this year, and you can bet he’s more unpopular in District 33 than Romney was two years ago.
One of Hall’s greatest advantages in his successful elections is money. He raises a lot.
Two years ago he raised $73,244. That is an eye-popping amount in a Utah House race.
Oddly enough, however, Hall spent just $36,734 against Hatch, and ended the 2018 campaign with $36,509 in cash.
UtahPolicy.com couldn’t access Hatch campaign financial records on the Utah Election’s Office site, all searches showed zero.
This year Hall has raised $63,788 (when you include cashed checks since the June 30 primary election financial filing). Hall has $57,651 in cash-on-hand as the final election against Dirie begins in earnest.
Dirie is outgunned financially. She has raised $11,242 and has $7,255 in cash.
Dirie may be able to tap into some of Mendenhall’s donation base. But so far Dirie doesn’t have many large donors, her reports show, although her donations are sprinkled with minority last names, so she clearly has her own base of financial support, as well.
Hall’s donations reflect the typical special interest giving that many legislative incumbents, from both parties, get, as well as constituent giving.
Hall told UtahPolicy.com he did not make a mistake in 2018, ending the race with $36,000 in cash. Hall said he spent what he thought he needed to win, and he did. He declined to say if he will spend more this year.
He did say he’s proud of some of his non-traditional GOP endorsements this year, which include several large labor unions, which typically support Democratic candidates.
Hall, as a GOP lawmaker in a growingly diverse area, has to walk a fine line politically.
For example, Hall declined to say if he will vote for Trump this fall, adding that he never runs with any other candidate and works for West Valley constituents regardless of who else may be on the ballot.
Hall was not challenged within the Republican Party. Dirie had a convention fight, which she won.
Will there be a “blue wave” in District 33, or in Salt Lake County, like there was in 2018?
If so, some of the legislative races won narrowly by Republicans two years ago may be in play this November.