New Year's is a time for political pundits to reflect upon the last year and make predictions on the future year.
So here it goes:
• 2007 marks the end (perhaps) in the elective office of one of Utah's great political characters: Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
Rocky, as almost everyone who knows him calls him, has been a political thorn in the side of many of Utah's power brokers. A true liberal Democrat, he angered all kinds of folks.
He got into a scrap with leaders of the LDS Church early in his tenure over the Main Street Plaza.
He became a clear target for legislative Republicans when he personally joined an environmental lawsuit over the Legacy Parkway in south Davis County. The lawsuit ended up costing the state tens of millions of dollars in delays, and Davis County commuters stuck in traffic on I-15 cursed Rocky even more after he said he didn't want all that northern traffic fouling the air of Salt Lake City.
Anderson was a public face of the 2002 Winter Olympics, before he became the public face of anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war demonstrations. As he bashed President Bush while various national veteran groups gathered in the downtown Salt Palace for their conventions, Utah Republicans went nuts, again.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, even coined a new term for the pro-Rocky demonstrators: nutcakes. You can see "nutcake" bumper stickers around the city now.
In many ways, we've moved beyond Rocky even before he is gone. He's been out of state a lot the last several years campaigning for his new cause: the environment. He hasn't been baiting Republicans, Mormons, the media or even the City Council recently.
Goodbye Rocky, and good luck.
• While the 2008 elections may be a watershed nationally, don't look for much change here in Utah, by some accounts the most red state in the nation.
Huntsman, a moderate Republican, should coast to an easy re-election. He's has already said he won't seek a third term in 2012. No Utah governor, Republican or Democrat, has been voted out of office after his first term in 60 years. The Democrats haven't even found a candidate yet to run against him. And there little chance that he will get a significant GOP challenger, as well.
• Salt Lake County should continue its slow slide toward Democrats. County Mayor Peter Corroon, a Democrat, should win re-election (he says he will run again). And the nine-member County Council, now Republican by just one vote, could become Democratic controlled, as well.
• U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, could well lose his 3rd District seat to a challenging Republican. Despite being one of the most conservative members of Congress, Cannon has had legitimate intra-party challengers his last several elections.
• Former Olympic boss Mitt Romney will sweep the Feb. 5 GOP presidential primary here. Even if Romney, a member of the LDS Church, drops out of the race before the "Super Tuesday" vote, he could still win in Utah, which basically considers Romney a favorite son candidate.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., could win on the Democratic side. But look for Utahns voting in the GOP primary to outnumber Democrats two-to-one or more.
• The Utah Legislature will stay Republican by large margins. House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, won re-election in 2006 by a scant 20 votes. But Curtis has a huge war chest (saving most of it for some future statewide or congressional race), and he'll spend some of it and campaign harder this time around. Curtis wins.
• Newly installed Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, the former minority leader in the Utah House, will get off to a fine start in succeeding Anderson. Becker is a policy wonk and won't bring the trial attorney feistiness that Rocky brought to the office.
Fences will be mended with the GOP-controlled Legislature; the rhetoric toned down considerably. Becker may even talk to City Hall reporters, not ban them from his office as Rocky did routinely.For all the changes that 2008 should bring to Utah, politically speaking we'll just keep on chugging along a very red Mountain West state with a growing economy, more and more kids to educate and an aging population to care for.
Deseret Morning News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]