Tuesday is Utah's biggest primary election day in anyone's memory.
For the first time in the state's history, there are no incumbents running in the governor and U.S. Senate contests.Throw in the 2nd Congressional District, attorney general, county commission, legislative and school board races, and Utah voters likely will primary ballots and eight propositions.
All voters, of course, will get a shot at the governor, U.S. Senate and attorney general races - with primaries in those races for both Republicans and Democrats.
The main races and candidates are:
Governor - Republicans Mike Leavitt and Richard Eyre, Democrats Pat Shea and Stewart Hanson.
U.S. Senate - Democrats Wayne Owens and Doug Anderson, Republicans Joe Cannon and Bob Bennett.
2nd Congressional District - Republicans Enid Greene and Jim Bartleson. Democrat Karen Shepherd already has her party's nomination.
Attorney general - Democrats Jan Graham and Scott Daniels, Republicans Scott Burns and Michael Deamer.
Salt Lake County Commission - Republicans Bill Barton and Brent Overson, Democrats Janet Rose and John Hiskey.
Davis County Commission - Republican Dannie McConkie faces Gayle Stevenson.
Utah has an open primary system: Any registered voter can choose to vote in any party's primary. However, you can only pick one party. For example, if you decide to vote in the Republican governor's primary, you can only vote for the Republican candidates in other races.
Because there are so many close primary contests (see the latest polling results on page A1) between Republicans and Democrats, most campaign watchers believe there will be little crossover voting - Republicans voting in Democratic primary races or vice versa.
Not only is this a record year for primaries, it's a record year for campaign spending as well, especially in the U.S. Senate race.
Cannon, Bennett and Anderson are all millionaires. Cannon has lent or given his campaign $5 million, Bennett exceeds $1.4 million and Anderson is at about $1.1 million. And Owens is no slouch. While not putting any of his own funds into his race, the incumbent has long been a fine fund-raiser, especially good at attracting cash from political action committees. Owens has raised and spent around $1 million.
The total $8.5 million spent in the Senate race so far is one of the highest in the country and certainly is the highest per-capita spending in the nation this year - a rather dubious honor for Utah.
To put it another way, come Wednesday someone will have spent $1 million or more of his own money only to lose a primary race, with almost no chance that he can recoup the money through fund raising after his defeat.
The gubernatorial candidates have been spending also. The Republicans and Democrats together have spent a record primary total of about $1.8 million - which pales in comparison to the U.S. Senate race but is a lot of money just the same.
Leavitt leads the spending pack at $788,000, nearly twice as much as second-place spender Eyre. Democrats Shea and Hanson trail.
But the candidates don't talk much about how much they're spending. They're pushing issues and where they stand. The Deseret News a week ago ran stories detailing how the major candidates stand on a number of issues. In general, the races fall out along these lines:
- Hanson and Shea have battled most over abortion and taxes. Hanson is pro-choice and received money from pro-choice groups. Early in the race, Shea said he supported the state's 1991 anti-abortion law - although if he'd been governor he would have vetoed it because of its criminal penalties. After the June U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion - which clearly says the Utah law is unconstitutionally restrictive - Shea said he supports the high court's new ruling as the law of the land, called for a healing over the issue and said he wouldn't "waste" any more money on court battles. "As a practicing Catholic, I personally won't be for elective abortions. But I'll certainly uphold the law of the land," says Shea.
Hanson has said all along that he'd consider a tax increase for public education if need be, although he wants to reform Utah's "antiquated and unfair" tax structure first. Shea said he doesn't believe a tax increase is necessary. But more recently Shea said if it became clear public education were seriously threatened, he'd suggest a tax increase to the Legislature but only after cutting wasteful and non-productive state programs and restructuring government to free up cash for education.
- Eyre has been after Leavitt for months for Leavitt's support of the state's Strategic Plan for Education, contending it is really a $500 million tax increase in disguise. Leavitt denies it, saying the costly parts of the plan - higher teacher pay, more computers and lower classroom size - would only come as natural revenue growth allows. Leavitt is against any tax increase.
In turn, Leavitt says Eyre's voucher system for schools - where parents would get a voucher to be "spent" at any school of their choice - would kill public education in Utah, creating an elitist system.
- On the Senate side, things couldn't be uglier for the Democrats as Owens and Anderson cut each other with TV attack ads this past week. What harm will result won't be known until the Nov. 3 final election. The race has degenerated into name-calling, with Anderson saying Owens is hiding from a "mediocre" record in Congress, and Owens saying Anderson is a carpetbagger who uses negative campaigning because he lived outside Utah for 14 years and doesn't know the citizenry won't stand for it. When they aren't after each other, Owens is stressing how he's helped Utah while in the U.S. House. Anderson is pushing change in Congress, supporting removing perks and privileges.
- The Republicans, Cannon and Bennett, are more mild-mannered, although Bennett has been saying that Cannon's $4.6 million personal spending is obscene and unwarranted. Bennett's own $1 million contribution isn't small potatoes, but Bennett says he wouldn't have spent so much himself if Cannon hadn't forced him to. To Cannon and Bennett the main issues are changing Congress and cutting the deficit - the difference being who can do it best.
- Compared with all of this, the 2nd Congressional District race between Greene and Bartleson has been quiet. Greene has been touting her budget deficit reduction program, promising to slash what Congress spends on itself only with eliminating perks. Bartleson promises to reform Congress via a national grass-roots organization, drawn from friends he's made over the years teaching in and running the National Center for Constitutional Studies - a conservative group that lectures on the U.S. Constitution.