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Mark A. Crockett

2008 could be the year of the Democrat in Salt Lake County.

With a stranglehold on both the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County mayoral slots, the Democrats are now taking aim at the County Council.

Four spots on the council are up for grabs in 2008, with three of those currently held by Republicans. Those look like pretty good odds to Democratic Councilman Joe Hatch.

"I think we've got a good chance," said Hatch, who is not up for re-election in 2008. "We have to only defend one seat, and they have to defend three. We only need to pick one up, so I think it looks good for us."

Randy Horiuchi, a Democrat who has survived four elections in the past, said he is "leaning heavily on running again."

As for the three Republicans, most are still deciding.

Marv Hendrickson said he'll spend the holidays making up his mind whether he should run again in District 6. Council Chairman Mark Crockett said it's "very likely" he'll seek re-election for his District 4 seat.

Michael Jensen is the only lock, saying he still has things to do for his west-side District 2 constituents. "Yep, I am going to run. I enjoy it too much," Jensen said. "There are still some things I want to get accomplished."

Jensen said he'd like to build a regional park in the Hunter/Magna area and continue to work on east-west transportation corridors on the west side of the valley. And he wants to build the Mountain View Corridor and make sure it's not a toll road.

Horiuchi said he wants to stay on the council to keep the peace, among other things.

"We're as contentious as I've ever seen us," Horiuchi said. "I've always felt I'm one of the peacemakers on the council. I try to smooth things over."

Democrats will likely target the District 4 race to shift the balance of power on the council. The district includes southeast Salt Lake City, Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights and northern Sandy.

Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Christian Burridge said that although he believes all three Republicans are vulnerable, Crockett's seat could be the one to steal.

Burridge is busy recruiting a candidate to run against Crockett. One man is Sim Gill, who lost a close election to District Attorney Lohra Miller in 2006. Burridge said Gill edged Miller by 4 percent in District 4.

"A Democrat can win there," Burridge said. "He could be that Democrat."

Medical malpractice attorney Gary Ferguson is planning on running for Hendrickson's spot in District 6, Burridge said.

If the Democrats take power, Councilman Jim Bradley said progressive ideas will likely be more successful.

The council has been sharply divided over several high-profile issues the past few years, namely domestic partner benefits.

A proposal to extend health benefits to unmarried partners failed on a party-line vote in 2005, and Councilwoman Jenny Wilson has been trying to broaden the proposal to try to lure a Republican vote ever since.

Mayor Peter Corroon, who plans to run for re-election in 2008, said a Democratic-majority council would help him do his job better.

"Certainly having the majority would allow us to push more initiatives that we may have felt reluctant to push in the past."

Those initiatives include the environment, education or human services, he said.

"If the public likes the job Peter Corroon is doing, give him the tools to keep doing a better job," Hatch said. "Clearly the problems, any problems he has had with the council have been primarily on partisan issues."

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com