Let's hope Bill Orton proves to be as good a congressman as he is a weather forecaster.
Monday, Orton predicted that, on election night, "Snow would fall" in the 3rd Congressional District. He was right.Orton, the Democrat who downplayed "partisan" politics in his campaign for the congressional seat, is on his way to Congress after surprising the state by defeating Republican Karl Snow in what has been called the most Republican district in the nation.
Orton, 42, pulled together a coalition of Republican and Democratic voters to win an upset over Snow - a victory that will have politicians shaking their heads for months.
"I think we can declare that the two-party system in Utah County is on the rebound," Orton said.
Orton, who gathered with supporters at the Excelsior Hotel to watch reports of election results, stood with arms extended around his parents, Carol and Donald Orton, as the first exit-poll results were broadcast shortly after 8 p.m. As the polls indicated voters had elected him, Orton was momentarily speechless.
"I'm astounded. I'm absolutely astounded," he said. "I hoped we'd win. . . . I think what it reflects is people are fed up with politics as usual. It's not a message between Democrat and Republican, it's not a message between Bill Orton and Karl Snow. What it is is a message to Congress. . . . They want someone who's going to stand up and tell them the truth and say, `Here are some solutions.' "
The 3rd District is located in the north-central and eastern portions of the state and covers 34,511 square miles. Approximately 73 percent of the district population lies in Utah and Salt Lake counties. Eleven rural counties make up the remaining 27 percent of the district's population: Wasatch, Summit, Sanpete, Sevier, Uintah, Daggett, Duchesne, Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties.
All of the counties except Carbon and Emery are traditionally Republican.
Orton received 78,431 votes - 58 percent - to Snow's 50,090 votes - 37 percent.
Snow conceded defeat to his supporters gathered at the Utah County Courthouse at 10:50 p.m. and called Orton shortly after to congratulate him. In the conversation Snow indicated "he hopes to see me in my office in D.C.," Orton said. "He also indicated that he hoped in two years they could convert me to the Republican Party."
Orton told the Deseret News he didn't think he'd be changing political parties but reiterated that "I've told you from day one I'm not a partisan politician."
Snow and Orton also talked about the mudslinging in the campaign, both saying they hoped the 1990 3rd District race would be the "low point in politics in this state" and that future races would focus on the issues. Orton told Snow he admired his past service to the state.
In his victory speech, Orton said he was not a politician when he entered the race but "I guess I am now. . . . I think this election has been a mandate by the voters to go to Washington, D.C., and try to shake things up a little."
He vowed he would not violate his own "personal standards" or "my promises to the people" while a congressman and asked his constituents to communicate their concerns to him and to be patient with him.
"It's going to be a tough job," he said. " . . . It's going to take some time."
Orton, saying one of the first things he wants to do is work to reform campaign financing, called on residents of the 3rd District to join in a bipartisan effort to cut down the "partisan, political barriers in Washington, D.C., and Utah County" by participating in a fund-raiser to help him, Snow and primary candidate John Harmer pay off campaign debts.
Orton spent $50,000 of his own money on his campaign and received $30,000 to $40,000 in contributions.
Snow said his failed congressional bid signals the end of his political career.
"I doubt I'll try for elective politics again," Snow said. "I will be active in the party, I will be active in public affairs. I'm a good citizen, and I believe in participation in the political process but perhaps not as a candidate."
Snow said his campaign didn't anticipate the national backlash or the "phantom candidate" in the race - the right wing that "wasn't able to accept Karl Snow."
"I suspect the most difficult thing for us to face is the character assassination we've been through by two `citizen groups' who have indeed set about with a very vicious campaign to assassinate Karl Snow's character," Snow said. "I've been in politics for 20 years. My integrity, my honesty has never been questioned. That's the tough part. It's not losing the election."
Orton plans to spend the next two years showing residents of the 3rd District "what can be done. . . . I expect to speak out, I expect to meet with the constituents regularly, I expect to work very hard to accomplish what I promised the voters I'd try to accomplish."
Orton would like to be appointed to the House Ways and Means Committee and believes his upset win will help get him a "pretty good committee assignment."
"I'm a tax attorney. I don't think they will find anybody more qualified to be on Ways and Means, and I'm going to lobby very hard for it," Orton said.
He plans to "hit head-on (problems such as the savings-and-loan crisis) and start talking very loudly in Congress about things that have to be done to start solving these problems." He believes as a conservative Democrat he will join some of the "most effective congressmen" in the House.
Congressman Howard C. Nielson, who is giving up his seat after eight years in office, said the Democrats would be smart to give Orton a good assignment to ensure he retains his seat. However, he predicts that in 1992 the Republicans will "take it back big. . . . I'm sure Bill Orton will be a one-time winner."
Nielson attributed Orton's victory to his grass-roots efforts to get out and meet people. "He took a leaf out of our book (by doing that)," Nielson said.
U.S. House District 3
County Reporting Orton Snow Smith Dutrow
Carbon 18 of 18 4,263 972 85 33
Daggett 2 of 2 176 190 6 4
Duchesne 12 of 12 2,157 1,051 60 8
Emery 12 of 12 2,341 1,216 52 25
Grand 11 of 11 1,271 1,212 81 26
Salt Lake 136 of 136 22,892 12,820 1,642 143
San Juan 20 of 20 1,968 1,903 77 67
Sanpete 26 of 26 2,566 1,890 209 16
Sevier 23 of 23 2,370 1,962 150 10
Summit 26 of 26 3,271 1,816 170 34
Uintah 21 of 21 2,340 3,061 140 21
Utah 148 of 148 30,664 20,670 3,795 110
Wasatch 15 of 15 2,152 1,327 58 18
Totals 470 of 470 78,431 50,090 6,525 515
593 of 593 voting districts
James V. Hansen (R-inc.) 82,296 52%
Kenley Brunsdale (D) 69,219 44%Comment on this story
Reva Marx Wadsworth (A) 6,397 4%
566 of 566 voting districts
Wayne Owens (D-inc.) 85,080 58%
Genevieve Atwood (R) 58,830 40%
Lawrence Rey Topham (I) 3,421 2%
Eleanor Garcia (SW) 411 0%
470 of 470 voting districts
Bill Orton (D) 78,431 58%
Karl Snow (R) 50,090 37%
Robert J. Smith (A) 6,525 5%
Anthony Melvin Dutrow (SW) 515 0%