One week following the primary election, after the dust has settled, the smoke cleared and the last echoes of spin and rhetoric have faded into political oblivion, we can clearly see what has really happened in this election cycle. While some members of party leadership and the media point to a few high-visibility races won by liberal incumbents as confirmation that the so-called conservative uprising is dead, consider the total Republican election cycle results. The two incumbent seats of Brent Haymond and Swen Nielsen go to strong conservatives, Matt Throckmorton and Becky Lockhart. Another strong conservative, Dick Perry, won his primary and will face appointed incumbent Democrat Trish Beck in the November election. Given the strong possibility of a Perry win in November, it will be a total net gain of three conservative Republican seats in the 1999 Legislature.
There were no incumbent conservative legislative losses, and we will probably maintain the conservative senate seat of retiring Sen. LeRay McAllister with the primary win of staunch conservative Parley Hellewell. Add to this the fact that in a number of county offices there were significant conservative wins, not the least of which is Mary Callaghan's primary win.Adding to the liberal Republican establishment paranoia were some serious challenges for a number of their incumbents - including "the chosen ones" Lloyd Frandsen, Susan Koehn, Richard Siddoway and David Steele, who survived a very close primary challenge by Jeff Ostler. Another incumbent, Dave Hogue, barely hung on for a 45-vote win, and there were several other close races. The intensity of the meltdown of some party leaders such as the governor, the speaker of the House and the president of the senate must be reaching Chernobyl proportions since they and others are willing to totally abandon the long-standing, self-imposed neutrality rules for high party officials to publicly endorse and give personal campaign funds to selected candidates who, according to the governor, are "worthy of continued service" (read, supports the governor's agenda).
By the way, since when does the governor decide who is or isn't worthy of service? I thought that's the way a monarchy works. Apparently what is good for Legislative district officers is not good for high party officers and officials, especially if "hypocrite" or "unethical" are not part of your vocabulary. And what about the mind-boggling wake-up call to Chris Cannon, hopefully he's listening better to the ringing bells of the election results than he does to his constituents. Jeremy Friedbaum, the no name recognition, no campaign funding, no endorsements, virtually no campaign whatsoever, let's treat him like a leper candidate, took well over a third of the vote in several of the 3rd District counties, including Salt Lake County, over one-fourth of the vote in Cannon's home Utah County and one-fourth of the total votes cast. Is there a message there?
You may have noticed the lack of reference to "moderates" in this analysis. That is because the usually self-imposed label of moderate is a disingenuous attempt to mask liberalism and legitimize calling others "extreme." The truth is there are only two political philosophies that are clearly identifiable and reasonably constant, liberalism and conservatism. Depending on your personal political persuasion, they are either friend or foe. A "moderate" is dangerous to both.
So the bottom line of the state legislators' scorecard reads: conservatives 3; liberals 0. Did we win every race we wanted to win? Of course not. But of the 33 candidates the Utah Republican Assembly endorsed between the convention and the primary, 18, or 55 percent, won. The Buzz or the Starzz would kill for that winning percentage. We feel that to be an unqualified success for an organization and movement that is less than a year old.
Clearly, if you hear the statements of some Republican Party leaders like Utah County Chairman Rod Fudge and Salt Lake County Chairman Bill Quist, along with certain members of the media wishfully and joyfully, if not prematurely, declaring that the conservative uprising has been soundly defeated, that the people have spoken and that "reason" has prevailed. What you are really hearing is people in pathological denial. The grass roots have just begun to sprout after far too long a germination period. In other words, recent reports of the demise of mainstream conservatism have been greatly exaggerated. Stay tuned.