Tuesday's election won't mean much change in the State Capitol - the 1991 Legislature will look a lot like the 1990 Legislature, both Republican and Democratic leaders believe.
Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by candidates, parties and special interest groups and thousands of hours walking neighborhoods and pounding on doors by candidates, there will likely be a change of three to four seats in the 75-member House, a seat or two in the 29-member Senate."This will not be a big-change year," says House Majority Leader Craig Moody, R-Sandy. "No way we see another 1986."
Four years ago Republicans were caught sleeping. A group of young, aggressive Democratic candidates won 13 seats from the Republicans and overnight became a force to be dealt with by Republicans and fellow Democrats alike.
Democratic Party State Chairman Peter Billings Jr. agrees with Moody. "No great changes, although we have a number of races where we think we're within striking distance. Voter turnout could make the difference."
Moody predicts three seats in the House net gain or loss for his Republicans. Billings says it may be as much as four, one way or the other, but no more.
Republicans hold the House 48-27 now. A gain of three Republican seats would mean the GOP would hold a veto-proof majority again, but with Gov. Norm Bangerter being a Republican, that doesn't mean much - the GOP House isn't going to overturn many, if any, of his vetoes in the next two years.
"We're solid in the Senate," said Billings. "We win the Karen Shepherd and George Mantes races easy." Shepherd and Mantes are running in districts now held by retiring Democratic senators. "And there's a chance that Scott Howell and Bob Steiner (both Democrats) will unseat Republican incumbents (Richard Tempest and Richard Carling, respectively)."
Moody doubts the Democrats can defeat those two incumbents. But even a two-seat gain in the Senate won't mean much for Democrats, who are out-numbered there now 22-to-7.
"Our candidates have worked hard this year. We've had adequate funds. This isn't like 1986 when we got a little complacent and some incumbents didn't think they had to work very hard to get re-elected," said Moody.
Billings and GOP officials both think they have a shot at a bunch of races. Asked to name just five where their candidates look the best, they list these:
Candidates Democrats think can win House races include Susan Way in District 34 defeating Rep. Ray Short; Ron Holt in District 16 defeating Republican Kevin Garn; Paul Hiskey in District 47 defeating incumbent Rep. Michael Waddoups; Ken Creer in District 65 defeating Republican Brent Haymond; and Drew Daniels in District 67 defeating incumbent Rep. Bill Wright.
Republican officials say they have a good shot with Zane Froerer defeating incumbent Democratic Rep. Haynes Fuller in District 8; Wayne Rose defeating incumbent Rep. Janet Rose (no relation) in District 32; George Brown defeating incumbent Rep. Max Young in District 36; Fred Hunsaker defeating fill-in Democratic candidate Michael Baugh in District 4; and Ray Short defeating Susan Way (the race Billings picked the other way) in District 34.
Democrats do worry about some of their own. They say Janet Rose is vulnerable, as are Reps. David Jones and Gene Davis in Salt Lake City. Baugh, who filed in last week for an ailing Rep. Frank Prante in his Logan district, doesn't have much of a chance.
Republicans think incumbent Reps. Michael Waddoups, Jed Wasden, Doug Holmes and Bill Wright face tough challenges.
In the Senate, Republicans admit that Shepherd and Mantes will probably win. They disagree that Howell will beat Tempest, although they say the race may be close. They think Carling is safe.