Democrats may have won the numbers game in the race for the Utah House, but it was Republicans who were claiming victory Wednesday.
"If someone had told me months ago that we'd lose only one seat in the House, that we'd be up one seat in the Senate and we'd keep the 1st Congressional District and the governorship, I'd have felt great," said state Republican Party Chairman Craig Moody. "But I wouldn't have believed it."He wouldn't have believed it because polls indicated voters wanted to dump incumbents in retaliation for the 1987 tax increases. Moody wouldn't have believed it because tax initiative proponents had targeted incumbent Republicans for defeat.
"The bottom line is that a net loss of one seat isn't bad," said Moody. "In light of everything, yeah, it's a fantastic victory."
The final score: Republicans 47, Democrats 28.
Democrats went into the 1988 legislative races bubbling with optimism. There was a realistic chance they were going to pick up 11 House seats and snatch a slim majority in the House - the first Democratic majority in 12 years.
But when the votes were tallied, Democrats were looking for a silver lining in a darkening cloud.
"When there is a heavy voter turnout, historically the Democratic legislative candidates don't fare well in Utah," said House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price. "But we survived the onslaught of a heavy Republican turnout. We survived the onslaught of the tax protesters. We have to consider it a victory."
Dmitrich also claims a victory in that Republicans did not reclaim their two-thirds veto-proof majority in the House. That ensures the Democrats will have an important say in the reapportionment of legislative districts in 1990, he said.
But Dmitrich admits the Democrats fell far short of their goals going into the election. "We had hoped to get at least halfway towards taking leadership of the House," he said. "Obviously, we didn't.
All in all, election night was relatively kind to incumbents - all of which sent a lot of pre-election predictions down the proverbial tubes.
The Democrats had boldly predicted they would sweep the Republican stronghold of Cache County. They didn't.
Republicans predicted they would pick up at least two seats in Weber County. They did, but they lost a third seat to the Democrats.
Democrats were talking about picking up maybe two or three seats in Utah County. They lost two seats and almost lost a third.
Republicans predicted they would stem further Democratic gains in Salt Lake County. Democrats walloped Republicans in four critical races.
Neither party won all the races it set sights on to win. But when the dust had cleared, it was Republicans that were doing most of the cheering, not because they had won more than the Democrats, but because they hadn't lost as big as they did in 1986 when they lost 13 seats.
Salt Lake County
The only bright spot on the Democrats' scorecard - and it's not nearly as bright as they had predicted - was that Demos picked up four seats in Salt Lake County.
Long-time Republican Reps. Olene Walker, the House majority whip, and G. LaMont Richards were both defeated, and Democrats picked up two open seats, one in Murray and one in the Taylorsville-West Valley area.
Paula Julander, a lobbyist for nurses who defeated Walker, said she was "always very positive about the campaign. I felt it would be close."
Julander said she has learned much in the past four years as a lobbyist in the Utah Legislature, and one such experience was the hoopla surrounding the three tax limitation initiatives.
"The tax initiatives did send a message," Julander said Wednesday morning. "I just believe the Legislature is already careful with tax money." Judlander received 4,834 votes to Walker's 4,294 in the Avenues district.
"Believe it or not, going into it I predicted we would win by 5 percent," said David Jones, who defeated Richards in the District 27 race, 51.4 percent to 46.4 percent. "I think people were in the mood for a change."
The tax initiatives were a big concern in the District 27 race. "I came out last spring against the tax initiatives. A lot of people knew where I stood on that," Jones said. "There's no question that nobody going up to the hill is going to think about raising taxes."
Several former Republican representatives tried to recapture seats they lost in 1986, but all were unsuccessful. Reps. Janet Rose, Frank Pignanelli and Gene Davis all defended their seats in races that were not as close as they were expected to be.
And Democratic Reps. Kelly Atkinson, Kurt Oscarson and Joanne Milner, all elected in 1986, each won easily.
"Probably the most significant thing I think about any legislator who came out and won is that he or she did that without any coattails," said Pigananelli, who retained the seat he won from Republican Bob Sykes in 1986. "The legislative race in 1986 had some, but not much."
The Democrat defeated Sykes, 54 percent to 42 percent.
Salt Lake County Republicans who were considered vulnerable, like Reps. Michael Waddoups, Mel Brown and Lloyd Frandsen, all won re-election in races that were expected to be much closer.
Strongly Republican Utah County became even stronger Tuesday night when Republicans wrested two seats from Democrats _ two seats the Democrats had taken fromRepublicans in 1986.
"I never did understand why I lost before," said long-time legislator Don Strong, who defeated the man who beat him in 1986, Rep. Glenn Bird, D-Springville. "It's good to be involved again."
Republican Bill Wright also defeated freshman Rep. Drew Daniels, D-Spanish Fork. The only remaining Democratic representative in Utah County, Rep. Tim Moran, Spanish Fork, came from behind at the last minute to narrowly escape defeat.
Democrats had sorely wanted to pick up the District 59 seat formerly held by Rep. Craig Peterson, who was elected to the Utah Senate. Democratic candidate Beardean Jarman was well known in Orem, and Republican leadership was pessimistic they could hold the seat.
Nevertheless, Republican John L. Valentine won with 64 percent of the vote. In fact, most Republicans in Utah County won easily, carrying 60 percent of the vote or more.
"I think the citizens wanted somebody that was balanced and listened to their input," said Valentine, who went to bed Tuesday night before knowing he won the race.
"I still believe that the tax initiatives have sent a message loud and clear to our Legislature that taxes cannot continue to be increased, that they need to be examined."
Republicans made some headway in Weber County where Farr West Mayor Marty Stephens, a Republican, will take the seat formerly held by retiring Rep. Spencer Wyatt, D-Ogden. And Republican Douglas J. Holmes defeated Democrat Bernard Allen in a bid for the seat formerly held by Rep. Erby Satterfield, D-Ogden.
Stephens campaigned on a promise to keep taxes down. "And being effective in keeping our government and as close to the people as possible, that was the message I was trying to get out in the campaign."
Stephens, who is against increasing taxes, has twice seen property taxes decreased since he's been mayor, a post he will resign effective Jan. 1.
Democrats, however, snatched a Republican seat when Dionne Halverson defeated Joseph Florence in a bid for the seat held by retiring Rep. Dale Warner, R-Ogden.
Democrats had also predicted gains in Davis County, where several open seats were up for grabs and some Republican incumbents were considered vulnerable. Butthe challenges failed to materialize as Republicans kept all Davis County seats they had going into the election.
In the closest race of the night, 10-term Rep. Franklin Knowlton, R-Layton, narrowly defeated Democrat Jay Ann Preston by 280 votes. He beat the same opponent in 1986 by a much larger margin.
"This was kind of a different approach, being targeted like I was," said Knowlton, who said the Utah Education Association and others organized a sophisticated campaign to unseat him.
"I probably lost ground because of tactics used against me. I won, but it was more of a negative approach than I had ever seen before."
Republicans had hoped to pick up the only Democratic seat in Davis County, lost to Rep. Joe Hull, D-Hooper, in 1986. Hull, however, easily defended his seat against former Rep. Kaye Browning.
Democrats trumpeted their predictions they would sweep Cache County, but whenthe votes were tallied, Democrats had picked up no new seats and barely salvagedthe one seat they had _ that of Rep. Frank Prante, D-Logan, who won re-election by only 136 votes.
"I heard all the talk, but the votes are in and they speak for themselves," said Rep. Evan Olsen, R-Young Ward, who staved off an organized campaign by educators to unseat him.
With the exception of Prante's seat, "Republicans won handily in Cache County," Olsen said.
In southern Utah, Republicans faced only token challenges, if any, in their bids for re-election. Rep. Jim Yardley won with 95 percent of the vote and Rep. Joseph Moody, R-Delta, won with 65 percent of the vote.
Rep. David Adams, R-Monticello, Rep. Beverly Evans, R-Altamont, and Rep. Haze Hunter, R-Cedar City, all were unopposed.
Republican Robert Slack, who defeated Rep. Ray Schmutz, R-St. George, in the primary, easily won election in Washington County to keep that seat in Republican hands, while Rep. Tom Christensen won with 58 percent in one of the closest races in rural Utah.
Democrats, on the other hand, faced no opposition in their bids to keep control of districts in Carbon, Emery and Sanpete counties. Reps. Ray Nielsen, D-Fairview; and Mike Dmitrich, D-Price; were both unopposed.