For Jim Davis, November's election loss has forced him to replace visions of reforming the state tax structure with less dramatic decisions about whether to fix city sidewalks.
Not that he doesn't enjoy his job as mayor of South Salt Lake. It's a title that he's proudly held for the past 11 years. But so many people, himself included, once believed he was a shoo-in as the next lieutenant governor of Utah - a position slightly higher on the political stepladder.Although he's disappointed, Davis said running on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket with Ted Wilson was always a two-headed coin for him. "South Salt Lake has been home for four generations," he said. In addition to his three terms as mayor, he was city councilman for two years before that, and his mother was city accountant for 20 years before that.
"It's hard to be sad . . . when you've gone through such wonderful experiences," said Davis' wife, Susan. "Don't get me wrong. We would have loved to have won."
The arduous campaign trail for the family began in May. The eight Davis children took turns traveling with Mom and Dad to all 29 county conventions. Davis and his wife walked along 50 different parade routes over the summer while the children helped carry the Wilson-Davis banners. The odometer on the family van increased by 20,000 miles before the election was over. Davis traveled more than 5,000 miles by airplane, spoke at dinners, lunches and breakfasts from Kiwanis Clubs to university cafeterias.
But the hard work and the hectic schedule were all worthwhile, and when it was over Davis said he had only one regret - ". . . that it wasn't June and we could do it all over again."
His wife feels the same way.
"I'd do it all over again," she said assuredly. "I may sound really Pollyannaish, but I really feel that way. It was a tremendous experience."
"It was a time that brought our family very close together," Davis said. "I don't think I've ever felt closer to my children."
He said one of the biggest eye-openers for him during the campaign was the closeness he felt with his eldest son, James, 14, who dedicated his summer to the campaign and spent nearly every day at Wilson headquarters.
"In my eyes, he grew up and became a man," he said. "If I were to run again, he'd be my campaign manager."
He insists that is not an announcement that he will run again, but admits there is no political job in the state that would intimidate him.
"In the campaign I stood toe to toe with (Gov.) Norm Bangerter, Val Oveson and Merrill Cook . . .," he said. "I made the personal realization that I earned the right to be there."
Davis said the loss is particularly disappointing because he and Wilson had a very strong plan for Utah. "Our success in South Salt Lake could easily have been transferred to the state," he said.
He believes the election results indicate the Utah Democratic Party is misunderstood and said it is important that the state has a two-party system.
"I think we as Democrats know who we are . . . not the party of crazy causes. But I don't think we convey ourselves to others very well," he said. "We have to convey the message that people need to look into the issues more than just labels."
He said perhaps part of the reason Bangerter won the close election was because the Wilson campaign gave too much emphasis to holding the large number of moderate and conservative Republicans who initially jumped on the Wilson/Davis bandwagon.
"We should have put more emphasis on what Cook was doing," he said.
"But today, I'd rather be Ted Wilson than Norm Bangerter," Davis said. "Bangerter takes office with 60 percent of the state wanting someone else to be governor. He's going to have a lot of work to convince people he'll do the job."
Davis said his next political decision will be made next spring when he'll decide whether to run for another term as mayor. He insists he does not feel stale in his job and said there are many challenges in the city he would like to tackle, including transportation and housing concerns, maintenance and strengthening of neighborhoods, and a strong program of business development.
But the mayor also believes that sales tax on food is unfair and would like to look into reforming the state tax structure.
But in order to address such issues, he'll need another position . . .