Utah Republican leaders, determined not to let the Democrats take control the House in 1988, have formed a political committee that will raise money for and support GOP incumbents.
House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy, chairs the new Committee to Re-elect a Republican Majority."We hope to raise $75,000 for our people. But $30,000-$40,000 may be more realistic," he said. "It would be a great help if we could drop several thousand dollars into a district the last several weeks of a campaign."
Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi has two main goals this year: Get Ted Wilson elected governor and gain 11 seats in the House, thus taking control of the body for the first time in a dozen years.
Wilson leads Gov. Norm Bangerter in the polls, although the race is far from over.
Gaining 11 seats in the House is a much more difficult undertaking. The Democrats gained 13 seats in 1986, picking up many so-called swing districts that are closely divided between Republican and Democrat voters.
To get another 11 seats, Horiuchi will have to cut into traditionally Republican districts. Karras doesn't think the Democrats will gain control, although he admits they may gain several seats on the Republicans.
"Our committee will help our candidates in 1988. But really, we're looking down the road, to 1990 and 1992. We want to put in place a solid incumbent effort, a resource group that incumbents can go to for financial and other aid," Karras said.
"The CRRM will supply our incumbents with a newsletter twice a month that will contain the latest polling, articles about organizing a campaign, how to deal with the attacks by your Democratic opponent; those types of things," he said.
Also on the committee are House Minority Whip Olene Walker, R-Salt Lake; Rep. Craig Moody, R-Sandy, who is also the state Republican Party chairman; and Michael Leavitt, a well-known GOP campaign fund raiser and strategist.
Karras said he and other GOP lawmakers decided to step out on their own, away from the formal structure of the House and Senate Republican leadership, "to get things moving."
"We got tired of waiting for agreement between the two bodies. We have to start raising money, making plans."
Under Moody's direction, the state party is helping all GOP legislative candidates. The candidates may get a little cash from the party, but mainly they'll get help with a generic campaign brochure, training and other logistical support.
Karras wants the party to buy a new GOP voter canvass, compiled by Ogden's telemarketing firm, NICE Corp. Greg Hopkins, GOP executive director, said, "We're about to make a deal (with NICE Corp.) on the lists. We hope we can afford them. By far, they are the most up-to-date canvass, 200,000 Utah households, that we could get."
Horiuchi said the state Democratic Party is also conducting a statewide canvass. Costing about $150,000, the canvass' telephone banks are organized by National Management Inc. The registered voters' telephone numbers were compiled by Ridder-Braden, a Denver firm.
"We're telephoning now. We'll make 275,000 calls, and identify about 175,000 households," Horiuchi said. "We'll give the canvass to all of our Democratic candidates."
If Karras can get his hands on the NICE Republican canvass, he said he'll see to it that each incumbent gets a copy of his district's voter break out.
"With those lists we can target our efforts like never before." While nothing beats a candidate walking his district, talking one-on-one with voters, a comprehensive canvass can tell the candidate which households are with him, which are undecided and which are definitely for his opponent.
"The candidate can spend his time more productively, either shoring up support or talking to the undecideds," said Karras.
CRRM will hold at least one fund-raising event this summer, perhaps a golf tournament with a dinner afterward. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has already agreed to send out a fund-raising letter and appear at any event. Other GOP leaders will be contacted also, Karras said.