Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Looking ahead… Salt Lake County, redistricting, and what our narrow losses really mean.

By Daniel Moir

I should be celebrating. On the whole it was a good night for Republicans. We took back the house by a larger than expected majority, though our pick ups in the Senate were less than expected. I’d ask how Harry Reid got re-elected, but the sad truth is… Sharon Angle … not a great candidate… but I digress.

For me, however it’s a night of utter and complete disappointment. You see Murray, where I live, is dominantly Republican and yet the Democrats keep winning it. As an avid advocate of small government I wanted representatives who reflect my views. We had amazing candidates step up to the plate this year, candidates who really got it… We almost won. Now the paper is going to want to rub your face in this defeat, but understand this is a much bigger deal than the Sltrib will want you to realize.

When Dan Jones predicted Morgan Philpot, one of the most amazing people I have ever met, someone I consider a friend, and the candidate I fought the hardest and loudest for, would loose by some 30 points it made my wife and I and my Murray based team of 8 or so volunteers that much more determined. Dan Jones was wrong, everyone who doubted us was wrong. All but a small handful of our precincts got walked. We passed out fliers, scheduled events and hosted them. Invited entire neighborhoods, and I at least fumed when only 30 or so people showed up. And while “experts” on Capital Hill sat around and determined that Utah needed ethics reform initiatives that create an unaccountable fourth branch of government whose sole job will be to fling mud at Gregg Hughes all day… (Oh yeah, congratulations Utah, Amendment D passed and you will live to regret it, believe me the Coroon ads are just the beginning of the can of worms we’ve opened up… Gatta love uninformed votes…) we teamed up with the Shawn Bradley campaign, a campaign which for all intents and purposes had quite a wind at their sails, we got out there and talked to people face to face. The people we talked to seemed genuinely excited about Shawn’s campaign, and not too keen on seeing Matheson re-elected. People knew Lee Brinton and had a great deal of respect for him.

I’m a cynic by nature so I didn’t want to get overly optimistic, so my forecast for Murray was we would win, narrowly, depending on turn out. Instead we lost most of the races that impact my district, narrowly, and I’ll bet because of low turn out. This despite the fact that I was calling people all afternoon (until it got too noisy and my cell phone battery died) and the people I talked to showed great enthusiasm for our candidates!

Whatever fantasy land Dan Jones wants to live in the reality was our internal polling had us with within 4 points of beating Matheson, and if undecideds broke in our favor we’d win. Lee and Morgan both trounced their opponents in the only public debates that were had, in fact Lee’s debate has already become the stuff of legend as Gene Davis apparently flew off the handle, or so I hear, because he was loosing so badly. You see I had a good reason for optimism.

We were watching Morgan pull ahead tonight, first we were behind by a point, then ahead by half a point, then by ahead by one, point then two! Oddly a Democrat who was actually being nice to me congratulated me on the job we did in Murray. Maybe he reads my blog, but I was surprised he recognized me… Or maybe he’s the one who kept breaking the yards signs… who know… He then says something odd to me. He said “You know there could be an unexpected surprise though.” That is when I saw the evil that is Sherrie Swenson in action. Here was a room full of hard working volunteers who came from all over the state and had just pulled off an historic upset of epic proportions… then we refreshed. Swenson chose her moment to dump Salt Lake County on us all at once, right after we started celebrating the success of our efforts… We were down by five points. The whole room gasped, I stopped breathing. I had heard a rumor this might be coming. 30,000 votes seemingly out of no where… All from the unreported southern precincts of Salt Lake County, areas, like Sandy and Draper that had all polled very well for Morgan… I’m not sure if Murray counts as south, but the people I talked to going door to door were not liberals, and were, as a point of fact, probably sicker of Matheson than I was if you can believe such a thing. Then I got the news about Shawn Bradly’s campaign… we lost that by a mere 200 points. How? Then the third candidate for my area I had done some work on, Lee Brinton… lost narrowly as well when all the polling looked good, and all of the people we talked to seemed pumped and ready to go vote…

But don’t despair! I don’t have the precinct by precinct break down yet, but Salt Lake County is winnable, and though it may not seem like it now, the fact is we proved that tonight. Tom Wright is right, we can do this… Its just going to take a little more work and a little more time than we had hoped. In fact we took back the county council tonight! But Lora Miller lost to that slime ball Sim Gill, and Beau Babka lost to the Democratic incumbent. The vast majority of races affecting Murray went to the Democrats… But for the first time in almost a generation… narrowly. We’ve made Salt Lake County competitive. Murray is competitive.

As I analyse this though I am still upset in particular because of how deserving Morgan Philpot really is of the CD2 seat. Personally I smell a rat in the county clerk’s office, at the very least I think they held those votes back to the very last second so they could crush our spirits… but the real problem here runs deeper than our narrow losses.

The “experts” think it’s about ethics, yet study after study has shown Utah to be the most efficient state in the union. We have weathered the storm of Democratic tax and spend Keynesian insanity and where Obama has failed to keep unemployment below 8 percent as promised nationally, Governor Herbert has locally. Tradition holds that where corruption is, efficiency isn’t. Utah politicians also haven’t had a whole lot of real scandals, that’s why Peter Coroon and Jim Matheson had to make a few up. The “experts” at capitol hill and the local papers don’t get it. (in fact why do we even read the SLtrib or the Deserted… I mean Deseret News anymore?) Its not about “ethics reform.” Although now the liberals have that and they can use it now to have their unaccountable 4th branch of government Palinise the Republicans out of office. (Again, aren’t uninformed votes great? Glad to see we don’t consider the unintended consequences of our ballot initiatives and our constitutional amendments!) So yeah! We now have that… great… But we have failed to address the real problem facing Salt Lake County.

To say Salt Lake County is “Liberal” and give up on it is insanity. It is true we have some liberal areas like Sugar House, and other college areas, but when I talk to people door to door all too often I hear, “do you know you are the only person from the party that has ever come to my door?” A great number of these people are just happy to have some kind of contact, some kind of sign that the party remembers who they are, that they care. Morgan, Shawn, Lee, and even Governor Herbert all picked up on this. They all came here, held numerous events here, did precinct walks with us. We all worked hard in Murray, but this problem of party neglect of Salt Lake County Republicans has been going on so long that people, I believe, are skeptical. I believe it will take more than one cycle to undo the damage. We used to just assume we had all of Utah in the bag, Salt Lake County wanted to send a message and we must now convince them that the message is received. The GOP must stop assuming they can count on us, this is especially true of the National Party (are you listening Michael Steele?) This epidemic could spread statewide if we don’t address it here and now, and sooner rather than later.

Here’s the good news. We came close. Closer than we have been in over a decade. In the next cycle Lora Miller could likely go for round three with Sim Gill, Salt Lake County will figure out he’s a slime ball. Shawn Bradley could still win if the vote by mail count goes in his favor, we are so close on that one, a hairs breadth away… Lee Brinton is close enough that the same could be true for him, though the numbers are statistically difficult to substantiate… Morgan could still win (and I am praying.) I am told we’ll know more tomorrow, but to make up 5 points all in vote by mail, provisional ballots, and absentee ballots is a long shot… But still possible. That is how close we came in a race Dan Jones told us was simply not possible. It is possible.
(OCD Moment: However next time the Dems have a primary we might want to help them get Claudia Wright on the ballot… just a thought.)

The news said it was impossible. The Salt Lake Tribune approached me and the reporter said to me, “You look particularly glum, did you really think given the polls you might win?” My answer, and enthusiastic, and admittedly angry, “yes!” When he asked why, I told him to forget the polls. The polls are always skewed. What told me we could win was the people I talked to going door to door, who understood the games Matheson was playing and wanted to give the new guy a try. What gave me the idea we could win was the excitement and energy I saw for the Shawn Bradley campaign…. How everybody knew Lee Brinton and adored him… How the people who met Morgan came away understanding what I learned a year and a half ago, regardless of their preferred Party: Utah could use Morgan Philpot, but America NEEDS him. Why what I saw in person didn’t translate to the voting booth entirely escapes me. Murray came dang close form the numbers I have seen so far. On the whole we all came within reach of wiping that smug smile off of Matheson’s wooden face, so close its not statistically impossible we could still get it done, but if we don’t… because the vote by mail will have to break for us with a statistically improbable margin… we need to realize that winning District 2 can be done, and we proved it tonight. I hope Matheson is shaking in his boots because we might have failed this time, but with his popularity amongst his own party slipping, and with the GOP already having a small but growing base of solid volunteers like my Murray team that is not going to give up on this district, ever, we have proven one thing to be true. Murray isn’t just a Democrat’s district. We’ve made it competitive, and next time, we will win it. Especially now that we have name recognition for the great candidates we had this year. I hope they will all try again in 2012, and or 2016.

Don’t forget that Newt Gingrich had to try three times before winning his congressional seat, Ronald Reagan also had to make multiple attempts to become President. The one thing I know for sure is that the more people who met our candidates this year, regardless of their party affiliation, the more people got it, the more people understood that it is men and women of honor and principled conservatism that we must support. That we need people who hold to the time honored truth that the government which governs best, is that which governs least, or if I may toss in some paraphrased Thoreau, in the areas Obama is over reaching into… not at all.

For now the Salt Lake Tribune can gloat and laugh at us. How dare we expect an historic upset? Quite frankly we had it until 30,000 Matheson votes magically appeared unexpectedly and upset our upset. Never forget how close these races really were. Don’t let them disparage you, don’t let them call you names. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they try to destroy you… then you win. District 2 is now competitive where it hasn’t been for almost a generation. Congratulations Conservatives, Libertarians and Tea Partiers and next time let’s hope Hinton sets aside his hubris and the Constitution party will stand with us.
(OCD Moment: I have to point this out because once the independents are accounted for that’s almost 4 % more Morgan could have had… and we lost by 5%. Making up 1% in vote by mail is a lot easier than the Improbable but possible 5% we have to make up now. In that regard the Constitution party may have cost us this election, but hopefully next time they will stand with us. God help us all if they form a Rent is Too Damn High Party….)
We have much work to do, we must go reconnect with our neighbors and reconnect them to the Party. It will take years of work, but the alternative is to let the party abandon us in re-districting to a permanent majority liberal district they will gerrymander just to avoid having the 4th congressional seat we are getting competitive. This rumored strategy highlights the problem we are facing… Our people feel disconnected. This strategy is the ultimate slap in the face to the Republican citizens of District 2. It is precisely this sort of thinking that causes people to become disconnected. That disconnect turns into low voter turn out, and in many cases a vote for the opposition. The voter wants some attention here, and if we are willing to earn their vote, and earn their trust we won’t need to worry about any blue districts in Utah at all. The question now is… Are you ready to get to work?

As proof I offer my great friend Daniel Thatcher who did win his race for UT Senate District 12, he was outspent, and a mysterious wind kept stealing all his yard signs too, yet he faced his challenges head on like a rock, he stayed rooted and focused and in the end against all odds beat incumbent Goodfellow in a district all too often dismissed as being “Liberal”, Jason Chaffets also won his Salt Lake County precincts by a landslide, Mike Lee won statewide in a landslide, but narrowly edged out Granato in Salt Lake County… Coroon is a joke so obviously Governor Herbert won Salt Lake County handedly, and we also took back the county council. Don’t dismiss Salt Lake County as being Liberal. Instead look at what Dan Thatcher did, door to door, registering people to vote by mail, a lot of it was the same stuff we were doing, but Dan was often doing the door to door grind along side his volunteers in every precinct in one of Utah’s largest Senate Districts. Dan reconnected his constituents to the party.
I know that having the individual candidate walk every precinct alongside their volunteers seems like a daunting task, but we have to do it at some point, and if I look at Dan’s race that’s what he did, slightly different, but it was enough to get noticed. Dan’s accomplishments in the Magna/Tooele area need to be studied and applied to our future outreach efforts so that we can become more efficient in our future voter outreach, but again remember we proved tonight it can be done, so get prepared for next cycle because in 2012 it will be done, and I pray, with Morgan and Shawn and Lee (Brinton) stepping up to bat again (with apologies to Shawn for using the wrong sport analogy) and with awareness up, and name recognition higher this time we will knock it out of the ball park like Dan Thatcher did in Senate District 12.

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