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Monday, June 25, 2012
My Votes in the Republican Primary

Here's my take on the six races on my Republican primary ballot tomorrow. I'll even hazard a few predictions, not all of which make me happy.

Here's my sample ballot for tomorrow's primary election in Utah. Yours may look different. Note that there is no Republican primary for governor, and apparently the Constitution Party allows Republicans to vote in its primary. (I won't be voting in that race.)

Here's how I'm voting tomorrow and, briefly (for me), why.

President: Mitt Romney

. . . Because I haven't changed my mind since I decided in March.

US Senator: Orrin Hatch

I've blogged six times in the last few months about the US Senate race, including once last week. On Tuesday I'll be voting for Senator Orrin Hatch. It's not that Dan Liljenquist is a bad guy. He's not. But I'm a long-time fan of Senator Hatch. I've been watching him fairly closely for 25 of his almost-36 years in the United States Senate, and I'm unwilling to trade a top-tier, senior, conservative US Senator for a top-tier, one-term state senator. We already have one junior US senator in Washington, Mike Lee, whom I like. I think this would not be an ideal time to have two.

Much of the campaign on both sides has been about spending and debt. I hope to see what Senator Hatch will do as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, if the Republicans win a majority in the Senate. But my biggest reason for being a fan these many years is his excellent work influencing the federal judiciary, including the US Supreme Court. John Yoo explained this very well in January.

As for those Utah Republicans who think Orrin Hatch reports directly to Satan (or is it the reverse?) . . . I wonder how many months it would be before most of them started hating Dan Liljenquist, if he won. Incumbency is an almost insurmountable obstacle with many of them. The first time Liljenquist won a partial conservative victory, instead of accepting an utter conservative defeat -- in some contest where, as usual, total conservative victory wasn't possible -- he'd be black-listed. Utter defeat is acceptable to many of my fellow conservatives, but partial victory isn't, especially if it involves compromise.

Recent polls say Utah Republicans are about 60-40 for keeping the previous paragraph in the subjunctive mood, but we'll see. The only poll that matters is the actual vote. Interestingly, if the polls are right, this may be the first time in living memory that the delegates to the state Republican convention weren't well to the right of Utah Republicans at large (who are themselves plenty far to the right, to be sure).

Utah State Attorney General: Sean Reyes

Before the state Republican convention, I took a long lunch one day and drove one valley to the north, to a meeting with Sean Reyes. I had already disliked John Swallow for years, thinking him a political climber and finding him rather shallow in some places where I hope for depth in my elected officials. I was hoping to find that Sean Reyes was at least a credible candidate.

In the end, I was very favorably impressed with Reyes -- his intelligence, his resume, his agenda, and the way he connects conservative principles with actual policy. I voted for him at the convention, and I'll vote for him on Tuesday.

Public Service Tangent: Negative Campaigning

A lot of what some people call negative campaigning, I call responsible campaigning: honest criticism of an opponent's record and qualifications. If Auston Johnson, Utah's multiterm incumbent State Auditor, wants to criticize challenger John Dougall, who is a friend of mine, for not being a CPA, that's fair game. Dougall is not a CPA, though he is an MBA, and he needs to respond, as he has, by explaining how being a CPA is not necessary to the office. If Dougall wants to observe that standard practice in the auditing world is to change auditors every several years, and Johnson has been in office since 1995, that's not negative; it's just campaigning.

There is plenty of real mud in other races. For example, FreedomWorks has aimed fraudulent, lavishly funded attacks at Senator Hatch for months. (From what I hear from some voters, it has backfired, pushing many of them to Hatch.) And both sides of the attorney general race have become nasty -- though, as far as I know, on the Reyes side and possibly also the Swallow side, the nastiness has only come from third parties.

Last week I heard about a mailer sent out by someone not affiliated with the Reyes campaign, claiming that Swallow is on the verge of federal indictment for improperly influencing something or other. Last Friday, that card arrived in my mailbox. I read it and threw it away. Had it come from the Reyes campaign and not from a third party, I'd have dialed back my enthusiasm for Reyes a couple of notches.

Lately, some third-party ads opposing Reyes have gotten dirty. For example, I heard one last week about his involvement in a road rage incident, where he was the enraged party. The radio ad doesn't tell you it was almost 20 years ago, when he was very young, or that some thugs had just egged his car, or that no charges were filed. It does exhort you to Google "sean reyes road rage," to find a City Weekly article about it. Here's what I suggest: read the article. Read the whole article, not just the small part devoted to the incident. If you don't end up liking Reyes more at the end than you did at the beginning, or if you think an episode of youthful rage in response to vandalism disqualifies him, then hold your nose and vote for John Swallow.

What I suggest in general is, don't put too much stock in what third parties (including me) say about candidates they oppose. Listen to the candidates themselves. Ponder their records, to the extent that they have such. Learn how they think. If they articulate principles with which you agree, remain skeptical, until you are able to learn how they connect those principles with actual policy. (Many do very poorly at this, even if their principles are sincerely held.) Then do your best in the voting booth, by your own lights. I'll respect that, even if you and I vote differently.

Back to the names on my ballot . . .

State Auditor: John Dougall

John Dougall and I have had some good, long talks about politics and government. We agree on a lot, but not everything, and he's always been happy to discuss points on which we disagree. He's smart and creative. He works hard. He's good with numbers and finances. He has a thick skin. He listens well and explains well. He's actually a bit more conservative than I am, generally, but that's okay. I don't like some of the things he proposes, but that's okay, too. I'd probably vote for him even if I liked the incumbent.

I had never experienced Auston Johnson in person until the state convention. I cannot speak to his professional qualifications -- I'm sure they're sufficient -- but I was put off by a strong whiff of entitlement. What I heard between the lines was that it's his job; it has been for ages. How dare another Republican oppose him? I've also noted that, now that there's a contest, we've suddenly started hearing every week or so about some trouble the auditor's office has conveniently just discovered somewhere in the state -- including some problems that were discovered and fixed long ago. The timing looks calculated and unprofessional.

Personal Tangent: Having Fun

My personal preferences aside, I'm very much enjoying the novelty of a state auditor campaign that's actually a campaign, and an interesting one, with both sides throwing solid punches above the belt. The frosting on the cupcake is that Dougall is having fun, as in his playful radio ads.

I haven't smiled this much at a campaign since Senator Robert Bennett ran for reelection in 2004. I know a lot of folks disliked Bennett. I generally liked him, though I voted against him at convention two years ago. In any case, his 2004 campaign billboards were masterpieces of the art and became a case study in the advertising and political realms. "Bold. Brilliant. Beanpole." "Honest. Humble. Hairless." "Able. Articulate. Aerodynamic." "Big heart. Big ideas. Big ears." They humanized a man sometimes criticized as distant, and the contrast between this light-hearted self-deprecation and some opponents' attacks was effective.

Legislative District 56: Further Explanation Required

I'm still in Legislative District 27 for a few more months, represented by the aforementioned John Dougall, who is running for state auditor. But redistricting necessarily moved the lines, so for this election and the next ten years, my little quarter-acre will be in LD56. The incumbent there is Ken Sumsion, who decided to run for governor instead and was eliminated at convention. So it's an open seat. The Republican primary is between Christy Kane and Kay Christensen. I've spent some time with both, and maybe it's just me, but I'm unable to generate any enthusiasm for either of them. Perhaps John Dougall spoiled me, but I'm looking for more than a grab-bag of feel-good conservative principles and some mostly-unrelated experience in the private sector. I'm looking for an understanding of the legislative process and of state policy generally, and a clear sense of what to do, if elected, and how to do it.

I'm not sure I'll even vote in this race in the primary. If I do, I'm not sure for whom. After the primary, as soon as I can get my hands on one, I'll be putting a Leslie Dalton sign on my front lawn. She's the Democrat running for the seat. She's also a long-time friend, so I'm well aware both that we have significant political differences and that she otherwise generally satisfies my sense of what a candidate for state legislature should bring to the table. She's intelligent and thoughful, she listens, and she knows the legislative process.

My thinking is, if the Republican Party can't put up an good candidate, and the Democratic Party does (especially if the Democrat is moderate or conservative), the Republican Party should expect me to vote Democratic.

County Commission: Lorne Grierson

This primary race pits incument Larry Ellertson against challenger Lorne Grierson.

People I know in local governments in Utah County have no significant objections to Ellertson. They say he's good to work with. I have no direct experience of my own by which to judge him in this respect. Grierson is a sort of turnaround artist, who has plied his trade with small and medium-sized companies in several parts of the country. He makes sense when he talks, which doesn't differentiate him from the incumbent.

I'm voting for Grierson for these reasons -- even though I doubt he will win:

  • He wants to expand the county commission from three at-large commissioners to five, representing specific districts. I have favored this sort of expansion for a long time -- thinking that in the long run better representation will offset (fiscally and otherwise) the slightly greater cost. Ellertson thinks three at-large commissioners is just right, but even with five commissioners, each would represent more than 100,000 people.
  • I think it's a major advantage, these days, to have elected local officials who have spent a significant portion of their adult lives living outside Utah.

I also like Grierson for these reasons, which likely wouldn't be enough to sway my decision by themselves:

  • He's a fan of county-wide library systems, having used them in other places he's lived. I'm not one of those right-wingers who argues that public libraries are socialism run amok. Libraries are expensive, but every village needs one. Smaller communities in particular could benefit from a Utah County library system.
  • Grierson has a better web site.


I predict wins by Romney, Hatch, Swallow, Kane, and Ellertson, and I'll go out on a limb and predict a narrow victory for John Dougall.

I also predict that polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. tomorrow. Find your polling place here, and don't forget your photo ID.

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