It may seem hard to believe that at year's end Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson will be gone from public office.

Anderson (friend and foe alike refer to him as Rocky) is such a strong personality that he's dominated the local political scene for the past eight years.

A large field of qualified candidates has already announced they are running for his job, even though the official filing deadline won't come until late summer.

No matter who wins the final election this November, he or she most assuredly will be more mild-mannered, less confrontational. It will be a new era in city politics.

But will the citywide split in mayoral politics that has been so pronounced during Anderson's times remain or be washed away with him?

I'm talking about the split between LDS Republicans and non-LDS Democrats and independents.

In both of Anderson's mayoral elections — 1999 and 2003 — Democrats and independent non-LDS members voted overwhelmingly for Anderson; the other side voted against him.

In both the nonpartisan elections, Anderson's opponent was a fellow Democrat, albeit one more conservative than Anderson. The mayor won his first race in a landslide. His re-election was closer, but the same split among voters was clear.

This year's election has two prominent Republicans running — City Councilman Dave Buhler and former City Councilman Keith Christensen. J.P. Hughes, a doctor, is also a Republican candidate but not as well-known as the other two.

Conventional wisdom says that Buhler and Christensen could well end up splitting the already-small GOP vote in the city. A recipe for political disaster for both men.

There have not been two good GOP mayoral candidates in recent elections — only one. And even that one was eliminated in the primary election, leaving two Democrats standing in the final.

The last time a Republican made the final was 1991, when a then-green Buhler escaped into the final election by just 102 votes. (In that case, Democrat Deedee Corradini won the primary and the final, while two other good Democratic candidates split the third/fourth place votes and Buhler got in against Corradini).

A good field of Democrats likewise split primary votes in the 1999 election. Democrats took the first four places in that primary, with Republican Steve Harmsen finishing a disappointing fifth.

The 2007 mayoral race could stab city Republicans in the heart (again) — setting the stage for years of Democratic dominance in Salt Lake City politics.

On another note: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has until Tuesday to sign bills from the 2007 Legislature, veto them or let bills become law without his signature.

Huntsman, a Republican, has already acted on hundreds of the 400-plus bills and resolutions passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature, not vetoing any.

He said this week that there are only "a few" bills sitting "in my veto pile." And he may end up not vetoing a one.

Already he's either signed or allowed to become law a handful of controversial measures, including a student club regulation bill and another measure that dealt with what teachers could recommend to parents about medication for their children.

Last year Huntsman was vocal about some bills that he considered trouble. And by speaking out about them even before the Legislature adjourned, some were just killed by GOP legislative leaders, and so they never even got to Huntsman's desk.

The governor stayed away from such public criticisms this year. But who knows how many bills he killed behind the scenes by telling GOP legislative leaders not to pass on to him this or that measure?

Finally, this column often criticizes legislators, especially the majority Republicans (with good reasons). Here is a collective — for the public and media — thank you.

The Utah House Republicans held only two closed caucuses that dealt with major issues — a daylong caucus before the session began and a late-session caucus that dealt with tax and budget matters.

By keeping their caucuses open (Senate Republicans close all of their caucuses), House members let the public and media see first-hand the complicated tax debates and allowed reporters to better explain what was going on and detail complex budget and tax matters.

House leaders even said at the end of the session that the open caucuses — and the media reporting on them — made public severe disagreements some GOP lawmakers had with Huntsman's early tax plans. And so forced Huntsman to make modifications.

Gee, open meetings actually leading to better government. Now there's an idea.


Deseret Morning News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at bbjr@desnews.com