Mike Leavitt (R)
GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt enters Tuesday's election confident of another four years as governor.
Leavitt has led Democrat Jim Bradley from the start of the race, raised many times more money and coasted throughout.
Along with Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, Leavitt has been planning for a second term almost from the day the pair were elected in 1992.
Leavitt and the GOP-controlled Legislature have given tax cuts every year since 1993. The state's economy is booming and besides giving around $250 million in tax reduction, state programs have grown by more than 10 percent a year, record increases for education and other popular programs.
Leavitt has been the beneficiary of those good economic times. His job performance ratings have been in the stratosphere, between 75 percent and 85 percent.
Along with the popularity has come money. Leavitt's own campaign manager, Charlie Evans, said he's never seen a Utah politician who can raise money in the state like Leavitt.
Evans said at a number of gubernatorial fund-raising events this year he had to turn contributors away because he didn't have room for them.
Leavitt has been running feel-good ads, recounting what he's done on education, health-care reform and other issues all while looking ahead to transportation reconstruction over the next four years.
Bradley and Leavitt have debated a dozen times during the fall campaign. Some meetings have been a bit testy, with Bradley lambasting Leavitt over what he believes is a lack of leadership.
But Leavitt has never lost control. He often ended such encounters by thanking Bradley for running and bringing up the issues during the race.
Leavitt, 45, is one of the youngest governor's in the state's history. Assuming he wins Tuesday, he'd end his second term before he turns 50. That has led to speculation about what he may want to do next in public life. Leavitt has already let it be known he's not interested in serving in a Bob Dole administration (although Dole may not get the chance to have an administration).
Leavitt has joked about a third term - which would let him be governor during the 2002 Olympics - but says for now he just wants to be the best governor he can.
Jim Bradley (D)
Jim Bradley never figured he'd win a race against Gov. Mike Leavitt this year.
But the former Salt Lake County commissioner said it was important that Leavitt have a credible opponent to raise issues, make a showing that should help draw Democrats to the polls and attempt to make Leavitt and especially the GOP-controlled Legislature accountable.
And if he got a little name identification along the way, no problem.
In fact, even as Bradley heads for almost certain defeat Tuesday there are those talking about Bradley running for Salt Lake City mayor in 1999. Bradley dismisses that thought now, saying over the next three years he needs to get back into the business world and forget politics for awhile.
Bradley, who was in Gov. Scott M. Matheson's administration, was voted out of an office he really loved in 1994. He served as Salt Lake County Commission chairman until swept from office in a Republican landslide through the country two years ago.
Bradley has used his position of designated gadfly this year to pick at Leavitt over several gubernatorial sore points. He takes pride in his unconventional campaign, even picking Shari Howleg, a Provo councilwoman who was an independent and never involved in Democratic politics, as his lieutenant governor running mate.
Bradley called for an investigation into how Leavitt interacted with state wildlife officials who had placed sanctions against a Leavitt family-owned trout farm in south-central Utah.
He criticized Leavitt's frequent trips outside the state, asking in a biting radio ad if Leavitt was listening, if Leavitt was even in the state to listen.
But Bradley's main campaign theme is that Leavitt and the Republican Legislature, for political reasons, too long ignored the state's growing transportation problems.
Bradley notes that only after the 1996 gubernatorial and legislative elections will the gasoline tax be raised to pay for part of the $3.5 billion road work. And work on I-15 in Salt Lake County, which could really anger commuters, won't start until spring.
But nothing stuck to Leavitt. In pre-election polls Bradley has barely broken into double digits, and Leavitt may win Tuesday with the largest margin in the history of Utah governor races.
Dub Richards (Independent)
It is sort of like musical chairs, politically speaking. Independent Party torch-bearer Merrill Cook jumped back to the Republican Party, and Dub Richards jumped from the Republican Party to the Independent Party.
Richards is making his second gubernatorial bid (he ran four years ago as a Republican), this time as the nominee for the Independent Party. His running mate is former party executive director Ed Little of Kaysville.
"I am disappointed that the present administration waited four years to offer solutions to transportation problems and that those solutions are poor," Richards said. "It's the same with reducing crime. They have offered little or nothing in the way of real solutions."
Richards, 39, decided to run for governor because of incumbent Gov. Mike Leavitt's reluctance to take stands on the controversial issues. "If it is controversial, he (Leavitt) refuses to take a stand, and consequently nothing gets done," Richards said.
Richards emphasizes "real solutions to real problems," as opposed to the "lip service" the current administration gives to problems. Little wants to remove the sales tax on food and make government more sensitive to citizens' needs.
Robert Lesh (Natural Law)
If "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" works for disease, it could also work for social and environmental problems. That premise is at the core of the Natural Law Party and its gubernatorial candidate, Robert Lesh.
"It's about implementing programs that are proven to work," Lesh said. "It's about empowering individuals to solve their own problems."
Things such as implementing health-care programs designed to prevent illnesses rather than treating the illnesses after they occur. And treating the symptoms that cause individuals to engage in crime - things such as poverty and drug abuse - rather than responding to crime by simply building more and more prisons.
Lesh has no illusions about winning the race. Rather, he is hoping to generate discussions that "look at problems from a different angle, to consider the questions differently."
Lesh is a radio talk-show host who moved to Utah 13 years ago. His running mate is William Scott Shields, a businessman who believes "responsible, intelligent, ordinary citizens can do a better job of addressing today's problems" than the so-called experts.
Ken Larsen (Ind. American)
He looks and talks like Brigham Young. But Ken Larsen is no Brigham Young.
Rather, he is the Independent American Party nominee for governor who believes in a return to constitutional principles. "We must look at fundamental principles and return to a restricted, simple government and let people run their own lives," Larsen said. "Rights come from God, and authority (to govern) comes from the people."
Larsen said there is no constitutional authority to restrict the right of people to bear arms, smoke marijuana or keep their property fromredevelopment agencies. He opposes government funding of the Olympics.
Larsen is famous for making public speeches with chains draped around his neck. The loop on the right, he says, represents conservatives who want to control people's behavior, while the loop on the left represents liberals who want to control your property. "But it is all one chain," he said. "We get more government no matter which one gets elected."
He is an adjunct research professor at the University of Utah and is self-employed as a medical research consultant. His running mate is LaMont Harris, who is campaigning on a return to Christian principles.