My insane and not-entirely-sober predictions for major races in the 2012 elections.
Last week, the curtain closed on the 2010 election season. It mostly goes without saying that it's been a a pretty wild midterm season (even though I just said it...), thanks primarily to the Tea Party insurgency. Utah wasn't left out of the fun, either, despite becoming even more of a one-party state. Thankfully, for political junkies, that one party has a few sub-parties, most of them trying to out-conservative each other.
Enough rambling, eh? After all, what I promised was predictions for 2012. A couple of disclaimers: I am assuming a 4th Congressional District for Utah, but not more. Also, these are predictions made from my gut, which means I have not asked any of the politicians if the predictions pass the "sane" test. Frankly, most of them probably don't, which makes them fun. After all, if I simply said that every incumbent is going to run for the same office, would you want to read any further? No.
Okay, the predictions:
U.S. Senate: Jason Chaffetz vs. Jim Matheson. This isn't a crazy suggestion, especially with Chaffetz. He may not be committing to run against Sen. Orrin Hatch, but he is certainly not denying it. It wouldn't surprise me if Hatch doesn't even run, but chooses to retire rather than face the same fate as Sen. Bob Bennett. As for Matheson, I think two things happen to push him towards the Senate. First, the next two years will be tough for him in the House. He's lost many of his Blue Dog friends and the Republicans are going to corner to "fiscal conservative" market, basically leaving Matheson in a congressional limbo. Second, redistricting Republicans could try to make Matheson's district more conservative, or even push him into the new 4th District. His response will be to try to beat them in a statewide race, which he very well could do. Chaffetz still wins, but it's very close.
U.S. House, District 2: Morgan Philpot vs. ????. If indeed this district does get more conservative in redistricting, it would do so by having less Salt Lake County. Philpot earned his stripes among party faithful with his campaign this year, and while an open seat would bring out a dozen Republicans, Philpot will have the groundwork in place to win this seat. As for the Democrats, I'd love to say that they will have a legitimate heir for Matheson, but who?
U.S. House, District 3: Gary Herbert vs. Steve Urquhart: In redistricting, this district picks up Washington County so as to carve more of Utah County and southern Salt Lake County into District 2. Chaffetz's jump to the Senate opens this seat, and multiple Republicans will jump in. Herbert joins the fray, surprising everyone who expects him to run for another term as governor. But as with all governors, he dreams of Washington, D.C., and 2012 is his best shot. Urquhart has been chomping at the federal bit for years, and this gives him a shot. Herbert wins in a primary, which (of course) means he wins the seat.
U.S. House, District 4: Peter Corroon vs. Josh Romney: I've said for months that Corroon's gubernatorial bid was really a dry run for a U.S. House seat, and although he lost a lot of goodwill with his late negative tactics, he solidified his credentials as the No. 2 Donkey (Matheson being No. 1) with the Democratic base. Frankly, most Democrats were happy just to see one of their candidates actually throwing punches. Oh, and he proved he could raise serious cash. That makes him nearly a lock for the party's nomination in the 4th District, which will be as close to a "Democrat friendly" seat as possible. Most likely, it incorporates a good chunk of eastside Salt Lake County and heads northeast, capturing Summit County and most of the Uinta Basin. As for Josh Romney, who lives in the Millcreek area, the possibility of being on a ballot headed by Mitt Romney for President would be very attractive. It would also make Josh Romney pretty much unbeatable, meaning that the Republicans would, once again, have all of the federal seats in Utah.
Governor: John Valentine vs. Ralph Becker: With Herbert out, all of those would-be challengers become legitimate candidates. I think Valentine wins in a primary against a much more conservative opponent. He's well-funded and likable, making him popular with moderate Republicans. As for Becker, well, who else? Becker at least has a recognizable name, experience at the state level, an ability to fundraise and executive experience. Plus, in 2012 he can run for governor without risking his position as mayor because he would run for re-election in SLC in 2011. Valentine would win, but at least Becker would make him work.
Attorney General: Mark Shurtleff vs. Sim Gill: Shurtleff flirts with both the governor and Senate races, but in the end stays the course. Gill runs with two years under his belt as Salt Lake County District Attorney. He also runs the same campaign he ran against Lohra Miller, which is essentially one of ethical superiority. On a state level, however, it flops, and Shurtleff wins easily.