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1992 WILL BE BIG YEAR FOR UTAH ELECTIONS

The year 1992 - just six months away - will be one of the biggest election years in Utah history.

For the first time in the state's history, a U.S. Senate seat and the governor's office will be open in the same election. No incumbents means, of course, great opportunity for all candidates. Plus, the three U.S. House districts will be redrawn this year, allowing greater opportunity for challengers than before.

Just what is at risk?- The governor's office. Gov. Norm Bangerter leaves after eight years.

- One of two U.S. Senate seats. Sen. Jake Garn is by passing another term.

- Three U.S. House seats are up - one which may be open - and all of them will be in newly redrawn districts following this year's reapportionment. While incumbent Reps. Jim Hansen, Wayne Owens and Bill Orton may all seek re-election, redistricting naturally weakens incumbents, giving challengers a once-in-a-decade chance.

- Seventy-five Utah House seats and 14 state Senate seats, all with redrawn boundaries.

- State School Board seats and many county commission seats as well.

Not only are so many offices up for election - the open gubernatorial and U.S. Senate seats being the great prizes - but if anything is learned from the 1990 election, it's that Republican candidates can't take anything for granted in 1992.

Republican and Democratic candidates alike will have to convince voters they're the right person for the job. No longer does an elephant insignia next to a candidate's name on the ballot ensure election.

Yes, it's a presidential election year, with the popular George Bush at the head of the Republican ticket. But most Utah GOP leaders say presidential coattails reached their peak in 1984 with the landslide win of Ronald Reagan. Bush never has struck the emotional chord in conservative Utahns that Reagan did, and Barbara Bush's visit in behalf of 2nd District GOP candidate Genevieve Atwood in 1990 had little or no effect at the polls.

The prizes:

Governor's office: Arguably, this is the most powerful $- political office in the state. The governor appoints nearly 400 top state managers, hundreds of citizens to lay boards and advisory councils and all the judges. The Senate confirms many of these appointments, but rarely is a gubernatorial appointment rejected. The governor recommends the $3 billion-plus annual budget to the Legislature. While lawmakers fiddle with the budget, they routinely adopt 95 percent of the governor's recommendations.

U.S. Senate: Utahns have a history of electing their $- U.S. senators to two or three terms and then booting them out. Only two senators, Wallace Bennett and Jake Garn, have ever retired from the office. All others were defeated in re-election.

Even so, whoever wins the 1992 seat can count on being a senator for 12 or 18 years or even longer.

The U.S. Senate now has a Democratic majority. Republicans could win control in the 1992 election, but it's unlikely .

U.S. House: Hansen may run for 4 governor in 1992, leaving his seat open. If he stays in the 1st District, he and fellow incumbents Owens and Orton will be the odds-on favorites. But the Legislature will redraw congressional district boundaries later this year, and all three men could see a host of new constituents in 1992.

Owens faces the greatest risks. GOP leaders say the three new districts will likely have rural elements. That means some of Owens' new voters could be outside urban Salt Lake County. Owens has already lost two statewide races - the Senate in 1974 and the governor's in 1984. He doesn't do well politically off the Wasatch Front and could be vulnerable.

Orton was an upset winner in 1990 in the 3rd District, which is heavily Republican. Incumbents always have the advantage, but the best time to get a freshman representative is in his first re-election, especially if he's been redistricted and if the opposing party outnumbers his own by 2-1, as Republicans outnumber Democrats in Orton's current district.

The U.S. House is heavily Democratic with little chance of going to the Republicans in 1992 or even 1994.

Utah Legislature: Republicans have controlled the Utah House since 1975, the Senate since 1977. Republicans held heavy, two-thirds majorities in the early 1980s. But Democrats have been picking away since.

Democrats are only seven seats away from taking control in the House, five seats away in the Senate. Considering all 75 House members are up for election next year, Democrats have a shot at tak ing control of the House in 1992.

But it's unlikely they'll get the Senate, especially with Republicans redistricting with an eye toward protecting incumbents. Only half the senators are up for reelection in 1992. Democrats would have to keep their current districts plus win five more, a difficult task.

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What's at risk?

-The governor's office. Gov. Norm Bangerter leaves after eight years.

-One of two U.S. Senate seats. Sen. Jake Garn is bypassing another term.

-Three U.S. House seats. One of the three may be open, and all of them will be in newly redrawn districts.

-Seventy-five Utah House seats and 14 state Senate seats, all with redrawn boundaries.

-State School Board seats.

-Many county commission seats.