So far, simple name recognition is determining the standing of candidates for Salt Lake County elective offices among voters.
According to a recent Deseret News poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, Mary Callaghan is leading all challengers in her bid to retain her County Commission seat. But, in the case of Democrat Karen Crompton, Callaghan's lead is not great.Twenty-six percent of poll respondents said they would vote for Callaghan, as opposed to 24 percent for Crompton. Republican challengers Wendy Smith and Charles Waldo garnered 6 and 3 percent, respectively.
"I view that as very favorable," Callaghan said. "We've been standing on our record and accomplishments."
Incumbents almost always enjoy substantial support at this early stage of the election game, simply because their names are more familiar to voters. Smith said she hopes to siphon off much of Callaghan's Republican support to her side partially through her endorsements. She has the approbation of Commissioner Brent Overson, Sheriff Aaron Kennard, Recorder Nancy Workman and Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan, among others.
Callaghan, on the other hand, has the endorsements of powerful state and federal elected officials including Gov. Mike Leavitt and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett.
She said she expects to emerge from Saturday's county Republican convention the sole Republican candidate. She will have to gain 65 percent of delegates' votes to do so.
Crompton, an Emigration Canyon community activist, is the only Democratic candidate for the seat.
Commissioner Randy Horiuchi is not seeking re-election, and no fewer than eight candidates - five Republicans, two Democrats, one Libertarian - have lined up for his seat. At 11 percent, Steve Harmsen is enjoying the early lead, with Democrats Paulina Flint and Mike Reberg next in line at 9 and 6 percent, respectively.
Harmsen has gained name recognition due to a run for Salt Lake mayor in 1995 as well as his service as Salt Lake City commissioner in the 1970s. He said he hopes to ride that early lead to success in the Republican convention.
"I'll certainly be disappointed if I don't make it out of convention," he said.
But with so many Republican candidates, "there's an interesting climate out there this year," said longtime county Republican volunteer Cathy Arentz. "Everybody seems to be very nervous."
While Flint is known to voters, having run for the County Commission two years ago against Brent Overson, Reberg is Horiuchi's preferred replacement, and he has his party behind him. Reberg said at this stage of the election process he's been concentrating on convention delegates (the Democratic con-ven-tion is a week from Saturday) rather than the general public, and that the poll results don't surprise him.
"The fact that 6 percent of the people know who I am is probably pretty good," he said.
Last summer the County Commission voted to combine the elected offices of county attorney (Doug Short) and district attorney (Neal Gunnarson), effective next Jan. 1. While Short is bowing out of politics, at least for the time being, Gunnarson, a Republican, is running for the combined office. He faces stiff competition by former county district attorney David Yocom, a Democrat who last held the combined office (they were separated four years ago). Yocom led Gunnarson by two percentage points in the Deseret News poll.
Sheriff Aaron Kennard's primary challenger is former deputy sheriff Scott Miller, who trailed Kennard 19 to 52 percent in the poll.
All other county elected offices, including assessor, auditor, clerk, recorder, surveyor and treasurer, are being contested this year, though Auditor Craig Sorensen is the only one of those facing an intraparty challenge.
Deseret News Poll
If the Salt Lake County Elections were held today, for whom would you
County Commission Seat A
Mary Callaghan (R) 26%
Karen Crompton (D) 24%
Wendy Smith (R) 6%
Charles Waldo (R) 3%
Don't know/refuse 40%
S.L. County Sheriff
Aaron Kennard (R) 52%
Scott Miller (D) 19%
John Sheets (IP) 7%
Don't know 23%
County Commission Seat B
Steve Harmsen (R) 11%
Paulina Flint (D) 9%
Mike Rebert (D) 6%
Cabot Nelson (L) 4%
Mark Shurtleff (R) 4%
Margaret Peterson (R) 4%
David Marshall (R) 4%
Paul Walker (R) 2%
Don't know 57%
David Yocom (D) 30%
Neal Gunnarson (R) 28%
Robert Howell (R) 6%
Mark Griffin (R) 4%
Victor Godon (IP) 4%
Don't know/refuse 29%
This poll of 403 Utah County residents was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates April 6-11, 1998. It has a margin of error of +/- 5 percent.
Copyright 1998 Deseret News