Looking almost as pale as the clam dip at his election party, Kenley Brunsdale sat down in the Radisson Hotel manager's office late Tuesday to talk to one more reporter.
"I think we can win this," said Brunsdale, who was coming down with the flu after having stood in sub-freezing weather the past few days to wave at passing motorists.Brunsdale had reason to be optimistic because at one point in the election tallies Tuesday night, he was actually leading Hansen by two percentage points.
But then Brunsdale got the bad news: The latest results showed that Hansen had gained by six points.
"Oh, that's disappointing. I'm crashing."
As the vote tallies continued to trickle in, it became clear that Hansen would be the winner by a 52-44 percent margin.
Brunsdale, a Democrat seeking his first public office, was hoping for a miracle in unseating Hansen, a Republican five-term incumbent. The last Deseret News/KSL Poll before the election showed Hansen with a 26-point lead.
By coming within eight points of victory, Brunsdale kept the race respectable, surprised the pollsters and established himself as a viable candidate who promised to return in 1992.
For Hansen, who had just won his 14th straight election, it was the biggest scare since he narrowly defeated Democrat Gunn McKay by 3 points in 1986.
"I feel very fortunate to be a survivor," said Hansen from his log-cabin headquarters in Farmington. "This has been an astounding election."
Hansen, however, was referring less to his own race than to the 3rd District, where Democrat Bill Orton upset Republican Karl Snow, and the 2nd District, where Democrat Wayne Owens beat Republican Genevieve Atwood by a near landslide.
"This whole (election) was a big surprise - on all the races."
Hansen said Brunsdale came close because he was riding the waves of a "Democratic sweep."
"There were really no definable issues that our polls show . . . (Brunsdale) happened to be at the right place at the right time . . . The same thing happened to me in 1980." That was the year in which Republicans - including Hansen - gained numerous political offices, largely on the coattails of Ronald Reagan.
"I don't mean to take anything away from Kenley. He ran a very aggressive race - the most aggressive I've seen in the 14 elections in a row I've been in. . . . He got more press than I thought he would but it didn't seem to help him much."
Brunsdale sees things a little differently. He credited his own campaign for "bringing attention to issues that people are concerned about."
"This campaign is not about Republicans or Democrats - it's about issues that affect all of us."
Brunsdale also attributed some of his success to Hansen's "cynical strategy" of relying on his incumbency and on the 2-1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the district.
"I campaigned for the district and Hansen campaigned against himself in his decision to adopt a strategy of avoiding the issues, debates and appearing as little as possible in the district."
Brunsdale said he probably would have fared better in the race with more money. Because of bad showings in the polls early in the campaign, he was able to raise only $120,000, far short of his goal of $300,000.
He said he is "very serious" about running again in 1992. "When I undertook this campaign last year, I looked at it as possibly being a three-year undertaking with a chance of winning tonight."
Hansen said it's possible he too will run again in 1992, depending on the political climate, and isn't afraid of Brunsdale.
"Some of these people who think they came close this year are foolish if they think they will come on strong in 1992," Hansen said.
1 of Hansen's close wins
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has seen three close races and three landslides in his six congressional campaigns, but he has won them all.
Year Hansen Democratic opponents
1980 52% 48% Gunn McKay
1982 63% 37% Stephen Dirks
1984 71% 28% Milt Abrams
1986 52% 48% Gunn McKay
1988 60% 40% Gunn McKay
1990 52% 44% Kenley Brunsdale
Percentages may not add up to 100 because of third-party candidates.
U.S. House District 1
County Reporting Brunsdale Hansen Wadsworth
Beaver 6 of 6 698 872 46
Box Elder 36 of 36 4,618 5,710 558
Cache 59 of 59 6,050 10,604 535
Davis 164 of 164 20,565 22,944 1,947
Garfield 10 of 10 225 1,227 25
Iron 21 of 21 1,704 3,627 175
Juab 12 of 12 880 1,276 36
Kane 10 of 10 344 1,330 38
Millard 17 of 17 794 2,554 150
Morgan 8 of 8 1,210 1,125 25
Piute 5 of 5 182 442 13
Rich 5 of 5 147 514 6
Tooele 39 of 39 3,022 3,868 270
Washington 43 of 43 3,473 7,082 524
Wayne 7 of 7 217 875 13
Weber 151 of 151 25,090 18,246 2,036
Totals 593 of 593 69,219 82,296 6,397