October 1, 2012

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The 2012 Election

What Does It Mean for Utah’s Business Community?

LaVarr Webb

October 1, 2012

The only truly intriguing congressional race is between long-time Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson and challenger Mia Love in the 4th Congressional District. This race has national implications because it could help determine control of the U.S. House. If elected, Love would be the first black female Republican member of the House. Matheson is highly experienced and is an excellent campaigner. Love is young and inexperienced, but is smart, charismatic and a quick study. The race is attracting major national attention and funding and is considered a tossup, even with Romney’s coattails.

What does the election mean for state government?
Republicans will remain firmly in charge at the state level, but Utah may be governed in a more moderate, mainstream way after this election. The Tea Party and far-right politics suffered major defeats early in the election year as a result of massive turnout at party caucuses and subsequent party convention and primary races. Many mainstream candidates are poised to win on Nov. 6 in legislative and local races.

Gov. Gary Herbert defeated his Tea Party opponents and is on track to win his first full four-year term against Democrat Peter Cooke. Herbert isn’t a superstar politician with national ambitions, but he has emerged as a solid, capable governor who has learned a great deal on the job and is ready to lead Utah to new heights. His focus in the coming term will be education funding/reform, energy development, clean air and jobs growth. 

Herbert will have a more mainstream, less ideological Legislature to work with in 2013, leading some leaders to suggest the upcoming session will be the right time to get important things done for the state. A “Mainstream Legislative Agenda” may be drafted to encourage legislation leading to better workforce development and a stronger business climate, while maintaining Utah’s low-tax, limited-government reputation.

Because Utah is doing well economically, at least relative to most other states and the federal government, strategic investments now in education/workforce development, infrastructure, and business development and recruitment could catapult the state ahead and help it maintain its lead as the best place in the country to live, work and play, even as the national economy picks up.  

Are there any significant local races?
The Salt Lake County mayoral contest between Republican Mark Crockett (former county council member) and Democrat Ben McAdams (state senator and top aide to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker) is an important race to watch and one of the few competitive local races.

Crockett is a conservative Republican emphasizing fiscal discipline. McAdams is a moderate Democrat who has worked well with Republicans in the Legislature. Crockett has the advantage of the Romney coattails and the GOP majority in the county. McAdams is supported by a lot of city mayors, plus downtown business interests, in part, because he is more likely to help facilitate the proposed downtown convention hotel and Broadway-style theatre. Both candidates are well-funded and the race is expected to be very close.

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