One or two people usually don't change a political system. But two Utah political junkies -- Republican Craig Moody and Democrat Randy Horiuchi -- did more to change how the Utah Legislature is elected than any two men in 25 years.
In 1985, Horiuchi, an independent lobbyist who thrived on political intrigue, decided to run for party chairman. He had an agenda that roughly looked like this: A party's power base lies in the Legislature, and to win seats in an overwhelmingly Republican state, Democrats needed to work like crazy to get good legislative candidates, target weak Republican incumbents -- and raise as much money as they could from special interest groups.He won the chairmanship, no doubt in part because no one in his right mind wanted to inherit the dilapidated Democratic Party in 1985. Democrats had no officeholder above the rank of Salt Lake County sheriff, they faced a veto-proof GOP majority in the Utah House and so few Democrats in the Senate that they didn't have enough minority members to sit on all the committees. Finally, the party had little money and lagging enthusiasm.
But Horiuchi's plan worked. In the 1986 elections, Democrats gained 13 House seats. Wayne Owens won the 2nd Congressional District and Dave Watson nabbed the two-year Salt Lake County Commission seat.
Suddenly, the Democrats were back. Horiuchi announced he'd run for a second, two-year term and chairman, and Republicans were scrambling to fight him.
Enter Moody, a two-term House member tapped in June 1987 by Gov. Norm Bangerter and other GOP leaders to counter the Horiuchi-led comeback.
"We Republicans had no natural constituent base, other than Republican rank-and-file, to raise money from," Moody recalls. "We were scared to death. Look what the Democrats had done with a little targeting and money. But where were special interest PADs (political action committees) for us to draw from?"
It was his job to develop a legislative campaign fund-raising machine that could fight what Horiuchi was doing.
And Horiuchi was doing well -- raising significant money from labor union and teacher PACs for his candidates. The bombastic Democratic chairman was even predicting an 11-seat gain for Democrats in the House in 1988, enough to take control.
A review of candidate financial disclosure statements from those days -- compared with 1990 legislative candidate statements -- tells the tale. Democratic candidates were getting a lot of PAC money in 1986. Republican candidates were getting little or no such support, raising their moeny from neighbors and friends hoping the state Republican Party would help out.
In 1990, however, Republican candidates got just as much PAC support as the Democrats -- and in general had just as much or more money to spend on their campaigns.
Moody's greatest achievement is the Committee for a Republican Majority -- a personal GOP House leadership PAC that in 1988 raised more than $50,000 for House candidates.
Now the CRM has a Senate Committee. In 1990, the CRM spent $64,611 on House candidates. (The final CRM filing, due 30 days after the election, was still overdue this week but will likely show even higher spending.) The Republican Senate Committee raised $68,000 this year.
So, in less than five years, Moody and other GOP leaders put together a fund-raising machine that contributes $130,000 to Republican legislative candidates -- enough to counter UEA, labor union and Utah Public Employee Association spending on Democratic candidates.
Says one lobbyist who works closely on legislative campaigns: "Horiuchi and Moody changed the face of legislative campaigning. It may have evolved without them, but they certainly shaped it."