For other Salt Lake County races, see A8.Democrats broke up the all-Republican Salt Lake County Commission by ousting 10-year Commissioner Bart Barker and nudging out seven-year Commissioner M. Tom Shimizu by a margin of less than 1 percent.
Democrat Jim Bradley held a comfortable lead over Barker throughout the evening Tuesday, while the hair-thin margin between Shimizu and Democrat Randy Horiuchi had both candidates holding their breath until well after midnight."I didn't expect it to be that much of a landslide," Bradley said of his 59-41 percent win over Barker.
"It was the shock of the century," Shimizu said Tuesday night after learning that Horiuchi won by 990 votes.
Early Wednesday, Shimizu said he probably won't ask for a recount.
"I'm not ruling it out, but right now I'm thinking probably not," Shimizu said when asked about a recount. He said the 990-vote margin probably is too large to contest, "unless we find a mistake in the computer or something like that."
A few absentee ballots are expected to trickle in this week, but Shimizu said he expects those to be only a handful, maybe 10 or 12.
Bradley, energy director under former Gov. Scott M. Matheson, said Barker's rec-ord brought his demise. The controversy surrounding the Salt Palace - over awarding compensatory time payments to top managers and firing and then rehiring an administrator who was drawn into the comp-time scandal - was the "Achilles heel" that cost Barker the election, he said.
Bradley was also able to double-team Barker throughout the race, even before the primary election when he and Republican commission hopeful Henry Hilton held a joint press conference to announce their common stand against expansion plans for the Salt Palace. After the primary, Bradley and Horiuchi held joint press conferences to announce their common goal of breaking the one-party grip the three Republican commissioners currently hold.
Barker said the two-on-one campaigning took its toll on him. He also believes anti-incumbency sentiment and the Democratic upset in the 3rd Congressional District also helped unseat him. "Karl Snow went down in flames, and I'm the very next one on the ballot," Barker said.
Shimizu echoed the sentiment that Snow's defeat affected the commission races.
The two Democrats campaigned heavily for greater support for Democratic Sheriff Pete Hayward and his department, with Horiuchi saying he would even raise property taxes, if needed, to handle the department's needs. Ironically, the department will be under a Republican administration beginning in January after Aaron Kennard unseated the three-term incumbent by a narrow 51-49 percent margin.
Barker likely saw his chances for victory fading late last week when the polls showed him lagging behind Bradley by 5 percentage points. He called on campaign endorsements from Gov. Norm Bangerter and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, but the endorsements came so late they got little media attention.
Barker also accused both Democrats of running a negative campaign, a charge the two commissioners-elect flatly denied even though one of Horiuchi's print and radio advertisements labeled all three commissioners as monkeys, while another radio ad by Democrat County Attorney David Yocom characterized Shimizu as a nice guy devoid of leadership skills.
"I don't believe the campaign was negative," Bradley said. "There was nothing personal said about Bart throughout the campaign."
Horiuchi, the state Democratic Party chairman during the past four years, said he got in the race against Shimizu because other Democrats figured the incumbent could not be beaten. "Tom would have run unopposed. Everybody wanted to run against Barker," he said.
Horiuchi dove into the final days of the campaign skeptical about his chances of winning but believing Democrats in Salt Lake-area legislative races would not have done as well if Shimizu would have gone through the race unopposed.
Horiuchi has plans to hit the county books soon and has already fingered several upper-level jobs in county government he believes the county could eliminate. "There's not going to be a stone left unturned," he said.
Horiuchi will need to be looking under rocks for money needed to keep a number of campaign promises to bolster law enforcement, initiate a countywide garbage cleanup and explore curb-side recycling, build skywalks for schools near busy streets and enhance the county's parks and recreation system.
Horiuchi and Bradley both said they are anxious to work with Commission Chairman Mike Stewart, who will go from being ring leader to minority member on the commission in January.
"I look forward to serving with him," said Bradley, who lost a close race against Stewart two years ago.