While Utah Democrats hope to gain seats in both the Utah House and Senate this year, a new poll for the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows it will be an uphill struggle — by far most Utahns plan on voting Republican in their legislative contests.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates also finds that most Utahns get most of their legislative candidate information from traditional media sources — newspaper, radio and TV news reports.

There is almost no chance that Democrats could win control of either legislative body. Republicans have been in the majority since the mid-1970s.

But state Democratic Party leaders recently told the News that they could pick up six House seats and a couple of Senate seats, enough in either body to break the Republicans' two-thirds, veto-proof majorities.

"We could stop bad constitutional amendments and (gubernatorial) veto overrides," state party executive director Todd Taylor said during an interview at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

But GOP leaders say while they may be playing defense in some races, they also have opportunities to pick up some seats. Part of the problem for Republicans in the Senate is that out of 15 races this year, there are only three Democratic seats up for election — so the numbers are against the Republicans in defending their incumbents.

The new Jones survey finds that 59 percent of Utahns say they would vote for the GOP Senate candidate in their area if the election were today; only 25 percent said they'd vote for the Democrat.

Jones found that 57 percent of Utahns said they would vote for the Republican in their House race; only 28 percent said they would vote for the Democrat.

Overall, those are hard numbers to overcome for Democrats.

But there are Democratic bright spots in several individual constants.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, is clearly fighting for his political life. A survey last March in his District 10 found that 67 percent of the residents did not want to re-elect him this year. Buttars faces Democrat John Rendell.

Buttars has been a controversial legislator for some time. In the 2008 Legislature he referred to a school board bill as a dark, ugly baby, leading some to say the comments were racist.

The Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP called for Buttars to resign. But Buttars apologized to anyone who may have been offended, said he certainly didn't mean for the comments to be racist, and announced he'd run for re-election this year. He won his party's re-nomination in a hotly contested Salt Lake County GOP convention.

Several Salt Lake County GOP senators and House members voted for the private school voucher bill in the 2007 Legislature, only to see their own constituents vote against vouchers in the November 2007 citizen referendum. In some districts, pro-voucher GOP incumbents saw their constituents vote against vouchers 2-to-1.

Democrats and anti-voucher advocates plan on making those contrary legislative votes part of those individual re-elections this fall.

Meanwhile, Jones found that 62 percent of Utahns say they get "a lot" of their legislative campaign information from traditional media sources — from newspapers, radio and TV. That number far outweighs other sources of legislative campaign information.

Forty-four percent of citizens said they get "none" of their legislative information from campaign ads or telephone calls by candidates or special interest groups; 55 percent said they get "some" of their information from candidate ads on radio and TV; and 65 percent said they get "none" of their campaign information from actually talking to legislative candidates personally.

Family and friends remain a good source of legislative candidate information, Jones found.

But only about half of all Utahns said they get any information about candidates from political parties. That doesn't bode well for the state Republican Party's "I Can" PR campaign, soon to be kicked off, that seeks to tell Utahns that they have been well-served for decades by Republican state officeholders.

Finally, some GOP senators have started a concerted effort to discredit traditional media sources in legislative reporting — and the 62 percent of Utahns saying they get "a lot" of their legislative information from traditional media is not a good number for that effort, as well.


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