South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis waited in vain four years ago, hoping that Wayne Owens would pick him to be his lieutenant governor running mate.
Davis was left at the altar; Owens chose someone else. But sometimes the bridesmaid does get to be a bride.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson picked Davis as his running mate Tuesday. And Davis couldn't be happier. "Without reservation, I accept," Davis said, smiling broadly.
Davis will drop out of his race to be state auditor to take up the lieutenant governor mantle. Democratic State Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi said the party's state central committee will meet this week to replace Davis, who was unopposed in the Democratic camp, with another auditor candidate.
Wilson said Davis was the first and only person he asked to be on the ticket with him. However, he admits there were others whom he asked to be considered but who declined to be included in the initial screening process.
"Fred Ball (president of the Greater Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce) and Dale Carpenter (who initially challenged Wilson for the Democratic gubernatorial candidacy last fall) were approached, but they didn't want to be considered," Wilson said. "Both would have been strong contenders."
Wilson said he seriously considered a woman lieutenant governor candidate. Aileen Clyde, Springville, Utah County, was on the final list. But, said one Wilson insider, she wasn't well known in the party, had never "faced the fire of a campaign," and so wasn't picked. "She was in the running. I just made the final selection myself," said Wilson.
Four years ago, Davis was one of several Democrats hoping that Owens would tap him for the second-place spot. But Owens picked Carpenter. When the Owens-Carpenter ticket lost to Republicans Gov. Norm Bangerter and Lt. Gov. Val Oveson, Carpenter set his sights on the governor's spot four years away. He left the race last Christmas, however, when it was clear that Wilson was way ahead among Democratic voters.
Davis brings strength in local economic development, said Wilson. "Jim has demonstrated a keen understanding of how to make a community come alive economically. He has a record of proven leadership throughout the state.
"I have emphasized continually in this campaign the need for community-based economic development, school reform and cost-efficient government. Jim Davis will be a natural addition to my candidacy because of his great success in these areas," Wilson said.
As is traditionally the case in team campaigns, Oveson is the one taking it to Wilson through campaign rhetoric. Davis was asked if he will be the tough guy in the Wilson-Davis ticket. "With this face, a tough guy?" Davis joked. He added, "I'll step up to the (campaign) challenge."
Davis, 42, and his wife, Susan, have eight children, including two sets of twins. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, in 1971 Davis was hired as the University of Utah's housing administrator. In 1978 he ran and won the South Salt Lake mayor's post and has won re-election since. Davis has considered other races over the years, including campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District and the U.S. Senate. For some time, Davis has been touted as a young Democrat looking for his chance at higher office.
Wilson was a school teacher before being elected Salt Lake mayor in 1976, and worked at the U. after resigning his mayor's post in 1985. Bangerter has said that Utah needs a governor who comes from private business, not someone who has been on the public payroll all his life.
But Wilson doesn't believe Davis' public employment will be a detriment. Rather, it is an asset, he said.
Said Davis, "Government and business are not dissimilar. In both, large volumes of money are invested for people. I believe I can address government and business concerns, and that is most important."