Brent Overson (R)
Incumbent Brent Overson's own polls show that he retains a 30-point lead over his opponents despite recent skirmishes with Salt Lake City and the Utah Transit Authority over UTA board appointments.
The media has blazoned tales of the clash in headlines and candidates have chewed it over in last-minute debates, but the controversy hasn't dented Overson's strong popularity.
He has kept his campaign focused on his four priorities: More jail space, more preventive programs for juvenile delinquents, expanded parks and recreation programs and transportation.
He points to strong track records in each of those four areas. "When I became commissioner, we had 670 jail beds. We have now added an additional 500. By the end of 1998, well, we have 2,500 total jail beds."
Despite his hearty lead, Overson is taking nothing for granted. Each morning and evening last week he and his supporters waved enthusiastically at motorists driving to and from work. "We have strong radio ads. We're doing everything."
But spurred by his lead, Overson already looks to the next four years in office.
His top priorities for the 1997 legislative session would be another attempt at getting a quarter-cent sales tax for the county, offset by an equal decrease in property tax; clearing up the UTA board appointment process, and revamping the state's township law.
Overson also is willing to consider a radical change in Salt Lake County's form of government - if more people show interest, he said. Proponents for the council/manager form began stirring that political pot again after spats between the commission and the county attorney.
Paulina Flint (D)
Paulina Flint may lose her bid for the commission, but she kept her integrity.
The maverick Democrat refused to accept any contributions from her own party, political action groups or big business, saying that she wanted her supporters to know she wouldn't be beholden to any interest groups.
Despite a slim campaign purse, Flint is still hopeful of victory. "I'm optimistic."
In an era of big spending even for small reasons, Flint stood out as a grassroots candidate.
She has spent only $4,754 on her campaign, compared with Overson's $191,404.
But she's proud of that meager fund. "It's all public money. People gave a little bit here and there where they could."
She even refused to hold fund-raisers. "It's ludicrous to have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to win an election."
The public is hungry for leadership from its own ranks, not for leadership funded by millionaires and corporations. "Quality leaders have to come from the general population. Otherwise, people become suspicious of their government."
She describes herself as the candidate who will restore public input and an open process.
Flint has accused Overson of leaning over to listen to developers and interest groups but turning a deaf ear to the public.
Flint describes herself as an on-call community activist ready to help anyone who is having difficulty working with county government.
Flint, a White City resident, has a long track record with county community councils, volunteer work in schools and involvement in community issues such as water use.
K. Brent Olsen (L)
Libertarian candidate Brent Olsen is a University of Utah student majoring in psychology.
A former Democrat, Olsen joined the Libertarian Party last year because he was impressed by its concepts of limited government and individual freedom.
Olsen didn't expect to win the race, he said. But he wanted to help spread the word about the Libertarian principles.
Olsen would slash county government's involvement in residents' lives.
He wants to put an end to light rail and privatize UTA. He wants to eliminate all redevelopment agency projects and abolish the property tax.
He views growth as the root of all the county's problems.
"I will stop county-subsidized growth incentives and large development supported by eminent domain," he said.
Olsen is married and the father of two small boys.
Pearl Meibos (Reform)
Reform Party candidate Pearl Meibos has put third-party candidates on Salt Lake County's political map.
She has been included in all major debates between incumbent Brent Overson and Democrat Paulina Flint. "We had to fight and argue to get me on Channel 4," she complained, but she was included in a KTVX political show on the race.
Her outspoken style has added zip to a low-key race. Her billboards accuse the County Commission of corruption, and she publicly announced at one debate, "I wouldn't trust the commission to water my lawn, let alone make appointments to various boards."
She ran for commissioner in 1994, losing the Republican primary race. This time around, she is still worried about what she sees as the commission's pro-developer attitude.
Like Flint, Meibos believes the commission is more sensitive to the requests from developers than from the public. She takes a tougher stand with developers, opposing all redevelopment agencies.
Lawrence Ray Kauffman (Independent American)
Independent American candidate Lawrence Kauffman is a familiar name on Utah ballots. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and the Utah Senate in 1990 and 1994. He will keep running, he says, because "I'd like rightists to be elected to office instead of federal hacks."
And he's hopeful of winning one day. "I'd like to start winning in the next century if not this century," he said.
Kauffman lays most of the evils in today's society at the federal
government's door. He wants the county to reject all federal grants or matching revenue programs. Accepting federal money means accepting federal control, he said.
He would support the elimination of both the property tax and income tax. The county, state and federal governments should exist frugally on the sales tax, he said.