It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
The politicos that run the county Democratic machinery thought they had it worked out. From the beginning, they quietly threw their weight behind Michael Broussard over Paulina Flint for the Salt Lake County Commission race.Party luminaries like Norma Matheson and Karen Shephard endorsed him.
Commissioner Randy Horiuchi held a press conference a week before the primaries to announce his endorsement.
But on election night, Flint grabbed an early lead and hung on, routing Broussard by more than 2,000 votes.
Broussard was stunned, attributing Flint's unexpected victory to congressional candidate Ross Anderson's aggressive campaigning.
"He turned out a lot of the liberal voters. They didn't know anything about the county race, and they voted for the woman," he speculated.
He noted that Anderson unexpectedly beat Kelly Atkinson 56 percent to 44 percent in complete but unofficial results. Flint finished with an identical lead over Broussard.
Flint was elated and confident she could repeat her victory in the fall. But she has raised only $3,030 and was forced to spent most of it on the primary. Republican incumbent Brent Overson has been quietly building his war chest while Broussard and Flint spent sparse dollars warring against each other. He has raised $130,000 and expects to spend $200,000 by the fall.
Flint didn't flinch. "I don't believe that a bucket of money is worth a bucket of votes." She acknowledged that millionaires Chris Cannon and Merrill Cook won their primaries after each spent approximately $400,000 of their own money.
Commission races are different, she said. "In that race, people count, not money."
Flint has made people the focus of her campaign. She believes the County Commission has moved gov-ern-ment away from the people, fostering the frustration that has led to incorporations and townships.
"People aren't being heard; they aren't being involved. We have to throw open the doors of government and tell everyone he's wel-come."
Her campaign relied heavily on friends' word of mouth, proof that people talking to people can make a difference, she said.
Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Mike Zuhl agreed with Flint that money and even name recognition won't matter in the County Commission race.
"Jim Bradley had a lot more money than Mary Callaghan and he lost. Gene Whitmore only had a fraction of the money Randy Hor-i-u-chi had, and he came really close to beating that well-known political figure."
The lesson in recent commission races isn't lost on Overson.
"I'm not taking this lightly. I'm going to work hard. I'm going to work smart and stick to the issues."
Overson said Tuesday's results didn't alter his campaign. He will focus on transportation, public safety, parks and recreation and programs for kids. Polls show that those are the issues troubling county voters, he said.
Flint agrees that transportation is the top item, but she also wants to talk about foothill development, maintaining the integrity of community master plans and, of course, giving government back to the people.
Broussard, a University of Utah graduate student, is at 25 the youngest candidate to reach a County Commission primary on a major party ticket. Flint is a White City community activist.