Tuesday, November 6 marks Election Day for the nation and for the state. Local elections are an afterthought compared to the presidential elections for many Utahns, but could very well affect them more greatly than the outcome of the presidential race. In a seemingly silent crisis, Utah’s Democrats, already hard-pressed to maintain their standing in a Republican bastion state, are facing an even more difficult election this year.
Polls conducted by Deseret News, KSL, and Dan Jones and Associates reflect a significant Republican leads. Governor Gary Herbert holds a clear lead over Peter Cooke, and Senator Orrin Hatch doesn’t expect much competition from Scott Howell. In the 1st Congressional District, Republican Representative Rob Bishop solidly leads Donna McAleer. In the 2nd District, the vote is narrower, with Representative Chris Stuart holding 44 percent against his opponent Jay Seegmiller with 28 percent. In the 3rd District, Representative Chaffetz has plenty of distance between himself and Soren Simonsen. The Democrats can hold their breath for the 4th District, however, as Democrat Representative Jim Matheson fights to hold his own against Mia Love. The polls are tight, with Matheson trailing Love 40 percent to 52 percent.
Salt Lake’s City Weekly points to the “Romney tsunami” as well as redistricting as key threats to Democrats. Starting with the former, Romney’s popularity in Utah provides a “big GOP tailwind” as GOP chairman Thomas Wright puts it. With state elections coinciding with national elections, Republican voters will find it easy to stay true to their party on the national level as well as the state level. Redistricting due to population shifts has also contributed to Democrats’ weakening hold in state offices. Areas in support of Republicans, such as West Jordan and Herriman, have grown in number while Democrat-supporting areas, notably Salt Lake City, have not grown as quickly. This has lead to fewer Democrats in the state legislature.
The election may result in the “Democalypse 2012″ coined by City Weekly, but prominent Democrats throughout the state such as Representative Matheson may win their increasingly close races. As the population continues to change in the most Republican state in the United States, dramatic turnarounds may not be so uncommon in future elections.