It looks like Utah County Republicans are going to need a candidate with something equivalent to kryptonite to knock down political superman Bill Orton.
Democrat Orton, just four months into his first term in office, is winning points among constituents and fellow members of Congress. To date, it seems the political newcomer can do no wrong.But there's plenty of time between now and November 1992 for Orton to make a misstep and show his true political stripes, Republicans say. In the meantime, what Republicans need is a strong candidate to rally behind.
Two political figures acknowledge they are taking a serious look at the race: John Valentine and Steve Densley.
Dean Bristow, a urologist in Payson, is also considering the race. Bristow, a surgeon for the Utah National Guard, is serving in Operation Desert Storm and has not yet returned to the United States.
"Yes, it's in my thought process. I am thinking about it," Valentine said.
Valentine has given himself until December to make up his mind about entering the race. He has three issues to resolve in making that decision: the effect on his family; the effect on his law practice; and whether the Republican Party will rally behind him as a consensus candidate.
Valentine and Orton are so similar and yet so different they could be fraternal twins. Their ages and backgrounds are similar. Like Orton, Valentine is a tax attorney who earned his law degree at Brigham Young University.
Their deepest differences are philosophical.
"He is more toward the conservative side of the Democratic party, but he still has to live with many things in the National Democratic Party that I find very difficult to swallow and that I think the constituents in the 3rd District have a hard time swallowing," Valentine said. "We would end up drawing the line where our respective parties stand on fundamental issues."
Another difference: Valentine, with four years in the Utah Legislature, is a proven legislator who has shown he is capable of handling difficult legislation. He handled the AMAX bill, for example, during the last session of the Legislature.
"People consider him someone who can carry responsibility and come through on issues," said Raylene Ireland, Utah County Republican Party member and former chairwoman.
Steve Densley, president of the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce, also acknowledges he's "looking at it (the race) seriously." Densley is giving himself until the Fourth of July to decide whether he'll enter the race.
The best time to beat Orton is now, while he has just one term to his credit, Densley said.
"He's a bright, articulate young man who's very fortunate to be where he is," Densley said. "I don't think he'll return. . . . That's not to say Bill Orton hasn't done a decent job. But, I don't think he is representative of this district."
In the next election Republicans will be able to take advantage of big state and national races to encourage voter turnout, Densley said. The National Republican Party will also make reclaiming the seat a priority.
"I always thought I would enjoy serving this district," Densley said. "I feel like I understand this district as well as or better than anyone."
Densley still has a political organization in place to use for his race or to mobilize on behalf of another candidate.
Both Densley and Valentine are unwilling to enter the race unless they are the party's consensus candidate. In the last election, six Republican candidates slugged it out in the state party convention. Wounds from the fray led to splits in the party that are just now beginning to mend.
"One of the mistakes we made as a party last time is we did not close (ranks) after the primary," Valentine said. "We continued with different factions vying for different kinds of results. That is one of the reasons Bill was elected.
"I'm just not willing to go through a blood bath at my own party level," Valentine said.
Densley agreed that the party must "get together and be a little more forceful in deciding who they're going to support as a candidate."