How did you vote last November on the private school voucher referendum?
Do you believe your Utah House or Senate member should reflect his constituents' will on such a controversial matter?
A number of Republican legislators in Salt Lake County probably want you to forget about your voucher vote; or if you remember it, at least give them a pass on that one.
And at least one powerful lawmaker who supported vouchers says he promises there will be no recurrence of vouchers for at least two years.
Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, says should he win re-election (his district voted 62-38 against vouchers) there will be no comprehensive voucher bill passing the Legislature in either 2009 or 2010. GOP leaders promised no voucher bill in the 2008 Legislature, on the heels of the anti-voucher referendum vote statewide, and there wasn't one.
An analysis by the Deseret News, using Utah Education Association voucher vote tallies, shows that the three Salt Lake County GOP senators up for election this year were significantly out of step with their constituents' voucher desires, as were nine Republican House members in the county.
Sens. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights; Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan; and Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville; all voted for the main voucher bill, HB148, in 2007. Eight months later, Walker's constituents voted against vouchers, 66-34 percent; Buttars', 61-39 percent; and Waddoups', 66-34 percent. Walker has said that her constituents have spoken and she will "never again" vote for a voucher bill.
Walker is in a tough re-election battle with Utah House Rep. Karen Morgan, D-Cottonwood Heights, who voted against vouchers, as did every other Democrat in the Legislature. "She ignored the people of our district," charged Morgan.
Seven GOP Salt Lake County House members still in their races this year voted for vouchers while their constituents voted against them Reps. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns (his constituents voted 67-33 percent against); Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy (62-38 percent against); Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan (67-33 percent against); Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan (61-39 percent against); Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper (56-44 percent against); Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman (61-39 percent against); and Curtis.
"It is going to be our job to remind voters (in the county) about" the pro-voucher votes, says state Democratic Party executive director Todd Taylor, who has specialized to legislative campaigns for nearly 20 years.
Todd Weiler, state GOP vice chairman, said vouchers "is yesterday's news." He said it's unwise for Democrats to run on one issue and an insult to voters who are concerned about the economy and many other issues this year. The state GOP won't run any counter voucher campaign. "We are looking to the future, not the past. Vouchers are over with; there is no political will to bring them up again" in the Legislature, Weiler said.
Five GOP House members from the county voted against vouchers and so are likely OK with their constituents on that vote: Reps. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley; Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville; Jim Bird, R-West Jordan; and Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan.
Parents for Choice in Education, the main pro-voucher political issue committee, is certainly doing its best to re-elect GOP lawmakers who voted for HB148 in the 2007 Legislature some of whom may now find themselves in political trouble for it. PFCE has given money and/or telephoning services to 19 pro-voucher incumbents topping out at more than $5,100 for Wimmer, the latest PIC financial filings show.
A review of the PFCE PIC report shows that the group has spent more than $42,000 giving money to legislative candidates and/or political PACs most of whose members support vouchers.
And the UEA, the main teacher union, is supporting anti-voucher GOP lawmakers and Democratic candidates who are challenging some of those pro-voucher Republican incumbents. The latest UEA PAC has so far given more than $18,000 to Democratic and GOP candidates who oppose vouchers, including $8,000 to the state Democratic Party.
Asking about vouchers is one part of a "persuasive voter ID poll" the state party is conducting in the county, only one attempt to use that vote against pro-voucher GOP incumbents.
There are still hard feelings on both sides. Mascaro voted against vouchers. He took $2,000 from the Utah House Republican PAC this year the GOP House PAC. That PAC accepted $3,000 from PFCE. "I wouldn't take any money from Parents for Choice in Education; I want nothing to do with them," and don't try to taint his GOP PAC money with that PFCE contribution, Mascaro said.
Curtis said he "honors and will abide by" the vote of the citizens who turned out to cast ballots last November that's why if he's re-elected to office and re-elected as speaker there won't be a voucher bill for at least two years.
Wimmer says his pro-voucher vote "is a non-issue" in his campaign against former GOP legislator Dave Hogue, who switched parties and is now a Democrat. Hogue opposed vouchers as a GOP representative.But Curtis also notes that only about 6,800 of his District 49 constituents, out of the 15,000 or so who will vote this November, went to the ballot box in 2007, a municipal election year. One can't assume how those other 8,000 or so would have voted on vouchers, he says. That's why it's the Legislature's job to make tough decisions, based on what members believe is best for Utahns, he said. HB148 passed by one vote in the House.
E-mail: [email protected]