Here it is, the much-awaited final predictions on who will win and lose in next Tuesday's election.
First of all, don't take these too seriously. Of the really close races in 1988, I was 0-for-2. I got them both wrong.Politicians, reporters and many citizens often complain that campaigns are too long. This year, at least in Utah, the congressional campaigns in the 1st and 2nd districts have been shortened by Congress staying in session for most of October, fighting out the budget compromise. We'll see if that affects voter turnout.
1st Congressional District. The only real certainty Election Day is that 10-year GOP incumbent Jim Hansen goes back to the U.S. House. Democrat Kenley Brunsdale has probably run the most aggressive campaign ever waged against Hansen, but he's come up empty. Former Congressman Gunn McKay fared better against Hansen the day he announced than Brunsdale will Tuesday.
The question for Hansen will soon be does he run for Congress in 1992 or give up his certain seat for a shot at the governorship or U.S. Senate.
2nd Congressional District. I thought several weeks ago that Republican Genevieve Atwood would have a real shot at beating Democratic incumbent Rep. Wayne Owens this year. But her momentum seems to have stalled. Maybe it's the fact that Salt Lake County residents like the idea of one Democrat among all the Republican officeholders. Maybe they just plain like Owens. But I see Owens fighting off his strongest challenge yet and winning another two years in a close race that should be within 10 percentage points.
Soon the GOP Legislature will be busy redrawing congressional boundaries following the 1990 Census. Owens may find a very different 2nd District in 1992, and don't be surprised to see Atwood back in that race.
3rd Congressional District. Some people in Utah County are wondering what hit them this year. After eight years of quiet, conservative campaigning by Howard Nielson and his routine election, a mud storm hit the district. One woman called me up to ask seriously if the ballot has a "none of the above" category so all the candidates would lose.
It doesn't work that way. I see Republican Karl Snow - a man who had a good reputation before this race started - winning. But Democrat Bill Orton will make a strong showing considering this may be the most Republican district in America. Orton's showing will help any political plans he may have. If the Legislature pushes the 3rd District more into Salt Lake County in 1992, Orton may be a viable alternative.
Snow must undertake some personal rebuilding. The question will be whether he can be rehabilitated enough over the next two years to fend off a possible challenge from his party's right - which has continued running a rumor campaign against him - or a renewed fight from the Democrats.
Food tax removal. The issue never caught the attention of voters. The sales tax on food is a hidden tax that's paid every day, unlike your income and property taxes that require filling out a form once a year, writing a check and getting real mad.
A hard core of Utahns will always want lower taxes, and so I see the initiative being defeated in a rather close vote, less than 10 percentage points.
Merrill Cook and his Independent Party won't go away, however. Look for another initiative petition drive - maybe one on rebracketing income taxes - to coincide with another run at the governorship by Cook in 1992.
Legislature. This won't be a watershed election for the Utah House or Senate. Republicans will keep control of both bodies. Democrats could lose enough seats in the House to allow that body to become Republican veto-proof, but since Gov. Norm Bangerter is a Republican, as a practical political matter that isn't important.
Salt Lake County. I see one upset here, maybe the only upset in the election. Democrat Jim Bradley has a real chance to unseat GOP Commissioner Bart Barker. Barker has several things working against him, one being his previous successes. He and fellow GOP commissioners Tom Shimizu and Mike Stewart have controlled the commission most of the 1980s. Voters may think it's time to place at least one Democrat on the commission.
I don't see former Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi defeating Shimizu, a politician who shows remarkable popularity in his commission position. The rest of the county offices should go to the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans alike.
You may not be excited about races in your areas this year. But do the right thing. Get out and vote next Tuesday.