Picking lieutenant governor candidates is a lot like picking vice presidential candidates.

Everyone speculates on this or that person. Political insiders want to put their two bits into the process, so they can claim later that they influenced the top candidate in his choice.But in the end - and this isn't meant as an offense to the second-spot candidates - it doesn't matter much.

People vote for the top candidate, not his or her second-spot mate, unless the No. 2 is in some way controversial.

The general feeling is, the second-place person shouldn't hurt the ticket. For it's recognized that he or she probably won't help the ticket a great deal, either.

Ted Wilson, the Democrat's choice for governor, picked South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis this week to be his lieutenant governor running mate.

It was a safe pick.

And that's what Wilson wanted.

While he is well ahead in the polls, Wilson didn't want to burden his campaign with someone, anyone, who could be seen by Republicans and independents as even a possible liability.

A fine political game is played in this picking No. 2. Special interest groups must be courted. Advice is sought from people you really have no intention of paying any heed to. And, in this day and age, political minorities should be kept in the running until the last minute.

Wilson aides say Wilson almost chose Aileen Clyde, a Springville woman, as his running mate. But he didn't.

And that is understandable. Wilson knows very well that he needs the votes of Republicans and independents dissatisfied with Gov. Norm Bangerter to win in November.

I'm not saying such dissatisfied voters would be against a woman lieutenant governor candidate just because she's a woman. After all, in GOP caucuses this spring, Utah Republicans picked two women, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Dole, as their top favorites to be Vice President George Bush's running mate this year.

But Kirkpatrick and Dole are conservative Republican women. If you're fishing for Republican votes in Utah, you don't use a Democratic woman as a lure.

You pick a man like Davis. Well liked. Right background. Tested in previous political campaigns. And never lost.

Running for lieutenant governor won't be risky for Davis, either. He won't end up like Jim Ferguson.

Four years ago, former Provo Mayor Ferguson was, like Davis, the perfect lieutenant governor candidate. Every Democratic gubernatorial candidate and his dog wanted Ferguson to be his running mate.

Ferguson was young, an up-and-comer who had won several elections in GOP-dominated Provo. Being from Utah County, Ferguson brought with him the much-touted geographic balance to a ticket to be headed by a Salt Lake-based gubernatorial candidate.

But Ferguson never got a chance to prove himself in the role. He joined up with Kem Gardner, and the Gardner-Ferguson ticket lost to the Wayne Owens-Dale Carpenter ticket in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election. Owens-Carpenter went on to lose to the Republican Bangerter-Val Oveson team.

Things got worse for Ferguson. Municipal elections are non-partisan, so many Provo voters didn't actually know their mayor was a Democrat (ou tend not to brag about those kind of things in Provo). But Ferguson's foray into partisan politics pointed him out. He lost his next mayoral re-election bid.

Davis is safer, however. He can only gain in the Wilson-Davis race, even if the ticket falters and falls short. Like Carpenter before him, Davis will get statewide name identification as the second-place man and be well placed for 1992 - when he can run for the governorship itself.