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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Official List of American Fork Candidates

As I post this information, you cannot yet get it any local newspaper's Web site. I have fewer readers, but I can sometimes get to press faster -- even if I take time for some pontification, as I have done here.

I appeared at American Fork City Recorder Dick Colborn's office a few minutes before the 5:00 p.m. election filing deadline today and left a while later with a copy of the official candidate list for the upcoming elections. You may be interested to know that there were no filers there at the last minute, but one gentleman was there, having previously filed, but at that point withdrawing his candidacy. I won't name him, because candidates may forfeit a certain measure of their privacy, but non-candidates don't.

There will be a primary election on Tuesday, September 15, to reduce the mayoral field to two candidates and the city council field to four (for two seats); the general election will be Tuesday, November 3.

Incumbents lead the lists below, followed by challengers in alphabetical order by surname.


  • Heber M. Thompson (incumbent)
  • (withdrawn)  Malcolm H. Beck (former mayor)
  • Ed Cameron   
  • James H. Hadfield

City Council (2 seats available)

  • Heidi K. Rodeback (incumbent; I'm working on her campaign)
  • Dale O. Gunther (incumbent)
  • Darren M. Cooper
  • Andy Dobmann (ran for a full term in 2005; defeated in the primary)
  • Marc J. Ellison (ran for a two-year half-term in 2005 against Dale Gunther; defeated in the general election)
  • Robert L. Godfrey
  • Jess Green (former mayor)
  • (withdrawn)  Marco Valle
  • Larry N. Webb
  • Gretchen Wiltbank

Early Read

It's actually almost too early for an "early read," but here are some thoughts, from a former campaign manager's perspective -- most of them tentative.

Please note now and in all of my upcoming discussions, particularly of the city council race, that I am married to one of the incumbents, and it's not Councilman Gunther. I'm already working on my wife's campaign; most of you already know that I usually refer to Councilmember Rodeback as MFCC here at the blog. In commenting on candidates and campaigns, both here and later, I can promise you three things:

  • I am often biased, though also capable of a degree of objectivity.
  • There will be at least a few insights, observations, or comments on the race that I will not put in a blog post, because there is a campaign to win, and I don't intend to give away the store. However, I will do my best to be honest and accurate, and I will blog with the blog's purposes in mind, not as an extension of campaign strategy. What I write will be what I am thinking, even if it sometimes will not be everything I am thinking.
  • I will try to make it easy in my commentary for you to discern between fact and my opinion.

I know two of the mayoral candidates, including the incumbent, having worked with them personally in one setting or another. I consider them friends. I do think Mayor Thompson is beatable, but probably not in the primary, and in the general election only by a very effective candidate running an excellent campaign.

As far as my own vote is concerned, I will be watching the three challengers to see if there is a good, viable candidate among them. If I find one, I will likely vote for that challenger in the primary. Then, assuming that challenger and the incumbent win the primary, it's likely that either could still win my vote in the general election, depending on what I hear and see in their one-on-one campaign.

On the other hand, if I don't see an excellent challenger, I could feel good about supporting Mayor Thompson in the primary, too -- at least after he has faced some tough questions. I doubt he'll win as handily as in 2005 -- incumbency inevitably includes some baggage -- but even if he does, I want him to have to respond to some pointed questions first (of which more as the campaign develops).

I know five of the ten city council candidates. I have my doubts that any of the challengers can eliminate either of the two incumbents in the general election -- let alone the primary. (Don't worry, Heidi supporters, this does not mean her campaign will be casual or complacent.) Andy Dobmann and Marc Ellison have some campaigning experience, and Ellison has a measure of additional name recognition from some genuine heroism a couple of years ago. If you get to know them, you'll probably like them both personally, but they have yet to prove their viability as candidates. Jess Green won a mayoral election last century (two mayors ago) and is intelligent and articulate, but, if we had polling data on such things, we'd likely see that his negatives are as high as his positives. His politics are far different from those of New York's junior senator, but in terms of positioning, especially with above-average name recognition and some high negatives going in, he may be the Hillary Clinton of the council race. I wouldn't be surprised to see him survive the primary.

In any case, if either of the incumbents fails to be reelected, it will happen because of some horrific gaffe on an incumbent's part, or a particularly fine campaign by one of the challengers, or some sort of political cataclysm, or a combination of these. But you never know. That's why we play the game.

As for my own votes, MFCC gets one of them. It will take a very convincing campaign by a challenger to keep Councilman Gunther from getting the other.

The Numbers Game

It's worth noting that there is no actual advantage to finishing first in one of these primaries; it may or may not be an indication of things to come in the general election, where the vote counts start at zero again, because this is not Chicago. In 2005 challenger MFCC finished third in the primary, but first in the general, winning a seat. Challenger Terry Fox finished a strong first in the primary but third in the general and did not win a seat.

For me -- warning: geek moment coming -- the fun thing about the primary results is predicting the general results while the returns are still coming in. In 2005 I pulled out the four primary winners' vote counts (ignoring all others), put them in a spreadsheet, and watched the comparative ratios as the general returns came in. From this I was able to see that, though MFCC trailed in the early general returns, she was getting a significantly higher percentage of the votes in virtually every precinct than she had in the primary. With only four of 15 precincts in and with MFCC running third in the running totals, I could see a win coming; with only three precincts still out and MFCC still firmly in second, I could project her finishing first. (The math is fun when it works. It's even more fun when it works, and it's your candidate who is winning.)

In case you're wondering about costs, a winning American Fork mayoral campaign in a competitive environment will almost certainly exceed $10,000 (from beginning to end); $15,000 won't sound extravagant to me; and $20,000 is probably possible, if it's really competitive. Divide those numbers by two, and you get reasonable figures for an American Fork city council campaign. I'm basing my numbers on campaign expenditures from 2005, when there was a mayoral primary and a crowded city council primary, followed by fairly serious general election campaigns. Past candidates who kept their signs and other materials can avoid repeating some costs, of course.

You won't see expensive radio and television buys, because they're not cost effective in this market; you end up paying to get your message to far more people who live outside American Fork than inside. And there's no American Fork Citizen now, for well-targeted newspaper coverage. There will be ads in the Daily Herald, of course, but I expect the door-to-door ground game and the Internet (including the Web and Facebook, at least) to play larger roles than in past campaigns. (After all, you're reading about the campaign via the Internet now.)

David Rodeback comments (8/20/09):

I've noted two later withdrawals in the list.

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