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Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Candidates for American Fork City Council

I'm not scooping anyone with this belated post, but here's a fairly early look at American Fork's 2007 City Council candidates, with one no-brainer endorsement and a few predictions thrown in.

The deadline for filing as a candidate for American Fork City Council was Monday, July 16, at 5:00 p.m. Very shortly thereafter, City Recorder Dick Colborn kindly sent me the official list of candidates. I like to scoop the DTM from time to time, but I was ill. Then I was on vacation. Now I'm back, and I'm not scooping anybody, but here goes.

No Primary This Year

With no more than two candidates per seat, there will be no primary election, as there was early in October 2005. There is only a general election on Tuesday, November 6.

While the filing period was a month earlier this time and would allow for a longer campaign, what we'll probably get is a shorter campaign. When the filing period ended in mid-August, we saw little public activity in late August, while campaigns organized, ordered posters, recruited volunteers, designed advertisements, and so forth, aiming to go public in earnest by about Labor Day, about one month before the primary.

Campaigning is hard work and costs money. The longer you sustain it, the more it costs, in time and energy, both of which are in limited supply. Without a primary, I suspect candidates won't feel any great urgency to go into high gear in early September, but all of them will want to be at full speed by the end of September.

The Candidates

Incumbent Councilman Dale Gunther is running unopposed for the two-year half-term, which is the seat vacated by Councilman Jimmie Cates upon his passing, and filled temporarily by the appointment of Councilmember Sherry Kramer. Write-ins are always possible, but don't look for very many of them, let alone enough to make a difference. While I generally think it unfortunate when candidates, especially incumbents, run unopposed, I don't mind much in this case. Councilman Gunther works very hard, and his financial and business acumen have been a huge asset to the City. He communicates and listens well enough that he's not in too much danger of isolating himself in his own political bubble (unlike most sitting US Senators). I am not aware that the city's population has anyone better to offer as a potential candidate. Even if it did, Councilman Gunther would be extremely difficult to beat. His views and mine don't completely align, but I'll happily endorse him right now. (How's that for going out on a limb . . . not?)

There are five candidates for the three full-term (four-year) seats. The top three finishers in the five-way race will get them. Three of the five candidates are incumbents: Shirl LeBaron, Rick Storrs, and Sherry Kramer. One challenger is a former city councilor and also a former mayoral candidate, George Brown. One challenger I don't know at all yet: Jason Porter, a resident of the northeastern part of American Fork.

Councilman LeBaron declared early; my comments at the time were positive. I predicted that Councilman Storrs would call four terms enough; now I suspect that he declared because he didn't see anyone he thought he could support among the challengers (non-incumbents). And Councilmember Kramer likely would not have applied for the temporary appointment this spring, had she not had a possible campaign in mind.

I'm not endorsing anyone in this race until I've heard all the candidates -- if even then -- but I will offer some predictions . . .

Early Predictions

Councilman Storrs will win a fifth consecutive term. As far as I can tell, nearly everyone knows him, and nearly everyone who knows him likes him. In the past he has finished very well. There won't be enough people who remember and resent his involvement in a nasty, supposedly anonymous October surprise in the last election (when he wasn't running) to diminish his prospects this time. He will finish likely finish first.

Councilman LeBaron will win. He only has to finish third in a five-way race, not first against a very strong candidate as in the 2005 mayoral race. Experience, intelligence, charm, and name recognition will bring enough votes, if he doesn't shoot himself in the foot with some projectile of particularly large caliber. He could finish higher, but I expect him to finish third, which is plenty good enough. It will be a strong third, in front of a distant fourth-place finisher.

Councilmember Kramer will win. Not only does she have at least part of the advantage of incumbency; she will run the best and strongest campaign. She knows a lot of people in the city. She knows how to win, from her own past work on issues and her major role in Councilmember Heidi Rodeback's 2005 campaign. That 2005 campaign took a relative unknown (except for the parks faction and the Greenwood area) to a third-place finish in a large primary field, and a month later to a first place general election finish against two incumbents and another challenger with very high name recognition. Essentially the same thing may happen this year: Councilmember Kramer is a possible first-place finisher, even if Councilman Storrs will be harder to top than any of 2005's candidates.

George Brown faired poorly in the 2005 mayoral race, despite being intelligent, articulate, and experienced. He's the John McCain of American Fork politics. He has a following, but that following is too small for an electoral win, and not likely to increase much during the campaign. Just as there are relatively few Americans who don't know John McCain, there are relatively few politically attentive American Forkers who don't know George Brown. There's just not a lot of room for improving his numbers. Still, he has a chance, particularly if one of the incumbent candidates withdraws or stumbles very badly, or some sort of scandal erupts (real or manufactured).

Jason Porter is entirely unknown to me, but unless he's a very sharp and effective campaigner and fund-raiser from beginning to end -- and again, barring a withdrawal or some major scandal, real or manufactured, involving at least one incumbent candidate -- he won't be serving on the City Council at this time next year. A solid, intelligent campaign will give him a fair shot at fourth place and a good jumping-off point if he wants to run again, but the simple fact of the matter is that most local campaigns, and most first campaigns, are relatively ineffective.

In Conclusion

Whoever wins, I'm persuaded that running for office is in itself a public service. Incumbents should have to defend their records against challengers, and every candidate's ideas should be tested in debate. So let's have a round of applause for all our candidates, however they may fare in the months to come.

As to my predictions, the campaign is young, to say the least. I've been very wrong before. I could be wrong this time. Stay tuned.

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