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Opinion: Is the red wave back in the forecast?

As Election Day creeps up, Democrats and Republicans are watching the races to see who will win out

SHARE Opinion: Is the red wave back in the forecast?

Salt Lake City Council member Daniel Dugan speaks at a press conference at the Salt Lake City-County Building on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, where he urged every Salt Lake City voter to not only return their ballot, but to vote in each race.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The 2022 election is down to just a few days (Hurrah!). And, with early voting, the die is cast in most races. So who’s gonna win? Here are our final thoughts.

For much of the election year, most national pundits expected Republicans to do well. Then the Hobbs/Roe v. Wade abortion decision was handed down by the Supreme Court and Republicans nominated a number of far-right candidates in key races. The pundits then predicted that Democrats were surging and might maintain control of Congress. But in the last month, sentiment has turned once more toward GOP victory. Why the whiplash in election expectations? Will there be any changes to the Republican control of Utah, including federal and state contests?

Pignanelli: “Historically, ‘fundamentals’ — the perception of things in the country, the economy — steer an election like this away from the party in power. But then again these times are unlike the era that informed so many of those ideas” — Anthony Salvanto, CBS News 

The victors of this strange midterm election will be the party that enjoys the most luck and fewest dumb mistakes. A combination of strong factors (disapproval of President Joseph Biden, inflation, etc.) portended a GOP tsunami. But that advantage was erased by overreaching on abortion restrictions and weak candidates. The Democrats responded to this unique opportunity with incredible foolishness. They also overextended on abortion, while ignoring credible solutions for inflation and crime. Biden is unable to articulate a hopeful message while his nemesis, former President Donald Trump, continues claims of election fraud. Consequently, 80% of Americans in a recent CBS News-YouGov poll stated the country is out of control.

These dynamics create problems for the party in power. The resulting red wave will hit Utah and help GOP incumbents. Republicans are lucky it is too late in the election for mistakes to matter.

Webb: Things are looking good for Republicans. I expect the GOP to win the U.S. House and Senate. The Republicans had plenty of problems in this election, including Donald Trump and nominating a number of weak candidates in key races. But Democrats, controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress, dramatically overreached, went too far left, and still don’t understand or appreciate middle class Americans.

Yes, Biden was stuck with a COVID-19-battered economy when he took office. But his big-spending initiatives fueled inflation. The ambitious and sweeping Democratic agenda was anathema to working class Americans. The Democratic defeat would have been a lot worse without Senate Republicans putting the brakes on the worst archliberal tendencies.

In Utah, I expect Republicans will sweep the congressional races and maintain big majorities in the Legislature and most local governments. 

On every ballot in Utah is Amendment A to the Utah Constitution, which expands the ability of the Legislature to spend or cut funding to 5% of the budget. This was a rather sleepy issue but recently is generating attention. Is this a legislative power grab as described by opponents, or a needed fiscal tool?

Pignanelli: In critiques of the amendment, opponents imply the lawmakers are an alien force attempting unlawful control of government. Sadly, some need reminding the Legislature is an elected coequal branch of government. The amendment passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support (House 68-5-2, Senate 29-0). Those who claim the Legislature is too stingy with tax dollars in the general session now suggest they will be spendthrifts in a special session. This suggests amendment critiques are legislative bashing for sport and without substance.

Webb: I believe the Legislature needs the flexibility the amendment will provide to deal with financial emergencies. Because Utah’s Legislature is well-managed and effective, some people worry it is too powerful. Tension and even bickering will always occur among the three branches of governments. That’s as intended by the Utah and U.S. constitutions. The push and pull is healthy. But the governor and courts still have plenty of power. The reason we don’t see more fighting is that leaders in all three branches are reasonable people and they enjoy good relationships. That, of course, could change in the future, but I don’t see a problem with providing the Legislature more flexibility in emergency situations.

Any surprises coming in local elections? 

Pignanelli: The well-funded write-in campaign by incumbent Rep. Stephen Handy against Trevor Lee (who prevailed at the Davis County GOP convention) is a possible historic upset. Because of bizarre statements made by Republican Salt Lake County Clerk candidate Goud Maragani, Democrat Lannie Chapman may win despite the GOP momentum. Also, the red wave may be just a ripple in state school board races, creating openings for surprises. 

Webb: Another race to watch is between GOP incumbent Richard Snelgrove and Democratic challenger Suzanne Harrison for an at-large seat on the Salt Lake County Council. Snelgrove, a mostly-moderate Republican, has held the seat for two terms. But Harrison is a thoughtful, well-liked moderate and she’s raised an immense amount to money (for a county race) to spend on advertising and voter contact. She’s run TV, radio and full-page newspaper ads — almost unprecedented for a council race. I can’t predict who will win.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired 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 state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.