The Democratic Party is coming alive in Davis County, and its chairman has a message for Republicans: "We're not going to get beat up anymore."
Party Chairman J. Dell Holbrook was elected to a seat on the County Commission and two-party candidates won seats in the state house of representatives in Tuesday's voting.Holbrook said he and state party officials sat down last fall to look at winnable races and began recruiting candidates in January and February. The response was less than heartening, Holbrook said, but as it turned out, they guessed correctly on the opportunities.
"We called around, talking especially to some city councilmen and mayors who run non-partisan campaigns. They said, `thanks for the interest' but just didn't think it was feasible to win as a Democrat in Davis County," Holbrook said.
"But we chose carefully. We thought the commission might be an opportunity, with the bickering and bad publicity they were getting. And we saw some opportunities in the legislative districts," the chairman said.
"We were also realistic. We looked at the legislative districts in the south end of the county, Stan Smedley and Nancy Lyon in Bountiful, and just didn't see that we could make any inroads there.
"We also looked at the rest of the county government races, for recorder and surveyor and sheriff. We had people interested in running, but those jobs require a professional background that our candidates didn't have.
"We decided not to waste resources by putting up candidates that would get beaten just on their qualifications," Holbrooksaid. "The consensus was to run for the winnable seats."
Holbrook attributes the victories to the party nominating viable candidates and to unhappiness among residents with the results of decades of one-party rule, not just in the county but statewide.
"People are disenchanted with one-party rule, with one-party politics. There were a lot of Republicans crossing over and voting for Democrats. I couldn't have won without Republican support," said Holbrook.
"And it's not just a few sour grapes Republicans. It's a shock wave in Davis County. I see it as a resurgence of the Democratic Party, as a return to two-party politics."
GOP County Chairman Mark Taylor, watching as election results flickered across the computer screens Tuesday night in the courthouse in Farmington, disagreed that the Democrats are coming back.
There was general dissatisfaction among voters, Taylor said, which they expressed in an unfocused way by voting against incumbents. It was obvious in voting trends in the sustaining of judges and the two propositions to amend the Utah Constitution, Taylor said.
Even in those uncontested, non-political choices there were 25 percent to 30 percent of the voters casting negative votes, he pointed out.
"There's something out there. You can feel it in the wind. People are looking for balance. I see a new spirit in the Democratic Party, beyond Davis County."
A prime example is the congressional race that pitted newcomer Kenley Brunsdale against five-term incumbent Jim Hansen. Hansen won, but the race was closer than expected.
"Real issues were raised in that race," Holbrook said. "Kenley talked about the pipeline and U.S. 89, things that are on people's minds. We talked to people, and the most common response we got back was that the residents said they only see Jim Hansen at election time."
Holbrook said Brunsdale started with no money and only a handful of volunteers. "To do what he did, starting with nothing, to me, Kenley Brunsdale won.
"I'd say to Jim Hansen, `You're the luckiest man in the world to be still sitting in your congressional seat this morning,' " said Holbrook. "I think Kenley Brunsdale will be back, and I think he effectively finished Jim Hansen's career in Congress."
The party will be recruiting more candidates for future elections, Holbrook said. "The message is this: We're here, we're bringing choices back into the political scene, and we're not going to get beat up anymore."