Until Tuesday, Congressman-elect Bill Orton couldn't get most officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington to even return his phone calls. He also had to fight for any attention from the press.
But the day after Orton pulled off one of the biggest election upsets in the nation, the campaign committee was calling him to say Democratic leaders all want to meet him now. And instead of Orton begging local reporters for coverage, reporters lined up begging him for interviews."I haven't heard from the networks or the national press, though, except for one reporter from the Washington Post. They probably saw the results, figured they had to be wrong and expected to see a correction the next day," Orton said. In fact, CBS indeed had checked with national Democratic leaders to see if results had been reversed.
One of the people most happy to eat his earlier predictions of doom for Orton was the committee's political director, Doug Sosnick.
"I met with Orton several weeks ago for an hour here in Washington. I remember telling him, `You're bright, you're a good candidate, you're working hard. But let's face it: There's no way you're going to win in that district,' " Sosnick said. The party in turn gave Orton little help, figuring it was a lost cause. When Sosnick called Orton Wednesday, Orton greeted him saying, "I told you so - I've been dying to say that to somebody."
Sosnick told the Deseret News that Orton's win caused the most glee among Democrats of any race in the nation. "I mean, it's the most Republican district in the nation. And not only did Orton win, he won big. He certainly got plenty of attention here last night. He stood out more than anyone."
Sosnick said all top Democrats now want to meet Orton personally and find out how he pulled off the win - which could help tax lawyer Orton lobby for the assignment he wants on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
But Orton said, "Funny, in my visits to Washington, I couldn't get meetings with those people before."Both Orton and the national party hoped his victory would encourage more Democrats to have courage to run in even heavily Republican areas.
Sosnick said, "This taught again that people vote based on local issues. We had a strong candidate, they had a weak one. In the modern age of using the media to go directly to the public, party labels don't mean much."
Orton also had national Republican leaders shaking their heads.
"Even though Utah is among the most Republican states in presidential election, Utahns are very independent," said David DuBose, deputy press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"Obviously, we are disappointed. But we are beginning today to do all we can to retake the 3rd District in two years. It is a top priority," DuBose said.
As Orton enjoyed his win - and the attention - he immediately turned his attention to hiring a staff, opening an office, lobbying for a committee spot and finding an apartment in Washington.
He said he had been offered help in organizing an office by fellow Democratic Rep. Wayne Owens, former Democratic Rep. Gunn McKay and even Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.
He plans to travel to Washington next week between tax law seminars he is scheduled to give in New York City and Orlando, Fla., and hopes then to meet with Democratic leaders then.
Orton also has to plan how to handle the nearly 50 percent salary cut he'll take by winning his election. Disclosure forms showed he earned about $250,000 last year, and he will be paid about $120,000 a year with a new raise for Congress that takes effect Jan. 1.
"I'm obviously not running for the money," he said. "I'm not sure I can afford being elected to Congress . . . but members of Congress are paid a good salary, and I certainly can live on it."