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Opinion: How will Eastern election results affect Utah?

Much analysis has focused on how Virginia/New Jersey gubernatorial elections sent a signal that Democrats are in trouble. But what about the impact on Utah’s elections?

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks to the media.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, second from left, speaks to the media as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, second from right, and his wife, Suzanne, right, as well as Pam Northam, left, listen after a luncheon outside the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

Associated Press

National pundits have waxed eloquently on the earthshaking political events of early November: The Virginia/New Jersey elections, vaccination mandate, infrastructure legislation, climate summit, etc. We have been suffering a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), so to relieve our symptoms we opine on how these issues will impact Utah politics. In other words, we get in on the fun.

Much analysis has focused on how Virginia/New Jersey gubernatorial elections sent a signal that Democrats are in trouble. Their control of the House and Senate may be at risk in the 2022 elections. But what about the impact on Utah’s elections?

Pignanelli“Democrats are coming across in ways that are annoying, offensive and seem out of touch.” Van Jones, liberal commentator, CNN

Frequently, American elections reflect the famous Greek tragedies written millennia ago — filled with flawed characters, hubris and catastrophic events. Thus, this November’s outcome will be a long-remembered classic.

The ripple effect in Utah will be subtle but real. National Democratic organizations will conserve resources to protect incumbents, limiting funds for local challengers. This extends to coordinated efforts between congressional and legislative campaigns. In addition, unless the trajectory changes, a predicted GOP wave will influence down-ballot races in numerous positions.

Republican candidates that were moderate in tone and established distance from the former president performed well, especially in demographics won by Joe Biden in 2020. This experience could flavor inter-party battles in Utah at the convention and primary levels.

Innocent Utah politicos will be positively or negatively impacted by faraway events fostered by arrogance and cluelessness. Ancient lessons in Greek plays still resonate in modern Americana.

Webb: It wasn’t just Virginia and a much-better-than-expected GOP showing in New Jersey that should worry Democrats. They lost numerous local races all across the country. Democrats have been trying to push America far left, but we are simply not a left-wing nation.

The razor-thin Democratic win in the 2020 election was a rebellion in the suburbs against Donald Trump. It wasn’t an endorsement of big government, high taxes, left-leaning ideology and racial and identity politics. Americans are fed up with victimhood and over-the-top political correctness

Even more discouraging for Democrats, Republicans learned how to win races, and put together coalitions, despite former President Trump hovering over the political landscape. Glenn Youngkin was brilliant in Virginia in supporting Trump and his policies, while also keeping him at arms length.

Walking this tightrope required Trump himself to exercise some restraint and not help Democrats turn the race into a referendum on him. When President Joe Biden campaigned for Terry McAuliffe, he mentioned Trump 24 times. Democrats desperately tried to make the campaign about Trump but failed, because Youngkin was able to maintain some distance. But Youngkin didn’t have to disavow Trump and managed to turn out the Trump base.

That’s a lesson for Sen. Mitt Romney, although it’s probably too late. Rather than ignore Trump, Romney has trashed him at every opportunity. As a result, Romney probably faces a tough battle for the GOP nomination.

Lawsuits have been filed by states and businesses to prevent implementation of mandatory vaccinations as ordered by Biden. Legislatures, including Utah, are attempting to prevent mandate enforcement in Utah. Could this be an election issue for 2022?

Pignanelli: State officials are reflecting constituents’ frustrations with overreaching government by creating obstacles to federal implementation. Many employers believe compliance with OSHA will create employment vacuums. However, other businesses are frustrated with being forced to choose to violate state or federal law. Emotions on either side will drive voting patterns, campaign contributions and internal party contests. A sour economy and a lingering pandemic guarantee mandatory vaccinations will creep into the 2022 elections.

Webb: My wife and I are both vaccinated and have even received our booster shots. We encourage everyone eligible to become fully vaccinated. But I don’t believe the president has the authority to order businesses with 100 or more employees to fire everyone who refuses to get vaccinated. It’s a typical big-government coercive approach to force compliance and it’s going to hurt Biden and Democrats in the long run. It gives a rabble-rouser like Trump an issue to run on. 

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package was finally passed by Congress. How will this bill impact political deliberations, especially since Sen. Romney was the only member of Utah’s delegation to vote for it?

Pignanelli: Utah will garner $3 billion or more from this legislation. The contemplated projects promise to touch every Utahn whether through transportation, broadband expansion, water resources, etc. Should Romney run for reelection in 2024, he can take credit for the assistance to the state. In the meantime, the acrimony over the multitrillion “social infrastructure” (“Build Back Better)” bill could blemish any federal stimulus and capital improvements. The lousy messaging and funding concerns deliver superior talking points to GOP candidates. Democrats will spend time explaining … which is never helpful.

Webb: Utah can use the money and will spend it wisely. But there’s a lot of waste in the legislation, and a lot more debt. It’s not paid for, as proponents claim. Utah should use the windfall for one-time projects and not build it into long-term budgets because when it’s gone it’s gone.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.