[Note: I have updated this post since writing it, mostly with links to later posts about races and issues considered here — and three proposed state constitutional amendments I didn’t realize were on the ballot.]
In keeping with my long-established (but not perfectly consistent) tradition at LocalCommentary.com, my little election guide considers the races that are on my own ballot, and few if any others. So the interest is localized. As the man said, all politics is local.
This post includes notes, numerous links (mostly to candidate web sites), and my own commentary.
Early voting starts tomorrow in Utah. Fellow American Forkers may vote early at the American Fork library. Utah.gov lists early voting days, hours, and additional locations.
Usually, I analyze candidates and issues, do some Q&A with candidates, and toss my opinions around for weeks or months. I generally report on meet-the-candidates events in considerable detail. Then, a day or two before Election Day, I list my votes, if I list them at all.
It’s an unusual year for me. I haven’t heard of a meet-the-candidates event in American Fork, which disappoints me. And I’m telling you my votes at the beginning of my (foreshortened) writing cycle this year. I’ll add more detailed treatment of some candidates and issues as time permits, between now and Election Day.
Meanwhile, if I don’t list a candidate’s web site (because I haven’t found it), and you know of one, please tell me in the comments, and I’ll add it to this post.
Other comments are more than welcome, with the usual provision that they be substantive, civil, and competently written. It certainly is not necessary to agree with me.
US Congress — Utah’s 3rd Congressional District
I’m no great fan of Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the incumbent Republican, but I’ll be voting for him, like 70-80 percent of the rest of the district, I expect. In the past I’ve wondered it he is more show horse than workhorse, by comparison to some other legislators I admire more. However, I will concede thinking lately that he may have some workhorse in him.
Among the also-rans is Democrat Brian Wonnacott, (Unbelievably, he has no web site I can find, just a Facebook page.) After his debate performance the other night, prominent voices in Utah who wish for a healthier, two-party system in the state were saying things like, How are we supposed to take the Utah Democratic Party seriously, if this is the best candidate they can find for US Congress?
Others in the race are Ben Mates, who may be the closest thing we have to a Green candidate (but is unaffiliated), and who wants to align human law with natural law and concentrate on making friends in the world, not enemies; Stephen Tryon, a decorated military veteran and West Point grad with an almost unusable web site and a quirky sense of political centrism; and Zack Strong of the Independent American Party, who has far-right views and an affinity for conspiracy theory.
There’s a more interesting congressional race in the 4th District, led by Republican Mia Love and Democrat Doug Owens, who is much more credible a candidate than Wonnacott. I don’t get to vote in that one, but maybe you do; hence the links. A list of three third-party also-rans is here.
Utah Attorney General
I’ll be voting for incumbent appointee Sean Reyes, a Republican. I voted for him two years ago against John Swallow. (I knew of but did not mention rumors of what later hit the press about Swallow.) The left doesn’t like Reyes for being a Republican and for pursuing an appeal in the matter of same-sex marriage. The far right doesn’t like him for yielding to the rule of law, when the US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. I fancy myself somewhere in the Sensible Right segment of the political spectrum, and I have no major complaints with him so far.
Democratic opponent Charles A. Stormont is highly spoken of, but when I’ve heard or read him, he has seemed to be campaigning against John Swallow, not Sean Reyes. He wants ethics reform in the AG’s office, among other things. I’m still counting on Sean Reyes for that.
Libertarian candidate Andrew McCullough also seems to be campaigning against Swallow — which tells you something about Reyes, perhaps. But at least McCullough has a campaign web site, which is more than we can say for Independent American candidate Leslie Curtis and Constitution Party candidate Gregory Hansen. (I don’t count links to their parties’ general web sites.)
Utah House District 56
Republican incumbent Kay Christofferson is running unopposed — always an unfortunate thing. I don’t blame him for the Utah Legislature’s Republican majority’s Arm of the Lord attitude, but I don’t hear or see him pushing against it, either. I may or may not vote for him, but it won’t matter either way, because he’s the only one in the race.
Utah County Commission Seat A
After defeating incumbent Gary Anderson at the Utah County Republican Party Convention this spring, Greg Graves was on his way to a calm, tranquil Election Day, running opposed. Then two bankruptcies and some past criminal charges came to light, and prominent Republicans — not the party itself — began shopping around for a credible write-in candidate to oppose Graves.
They found an excellent one, Bill Freeze — a real estate agent with whom I’ve worked, and whom I have enthusiastically recommended to others since. I’d probably vote for Freeze out of personal loyalty alone, if I didn’t have other reasons.
For me, it’s not the character stuff, which Graves has more or less explained anyway. One of the bankruptcies involved a car accident and an ill-fated attempt to stay afloat with credit cards, while paying large medical bills. It’s not ideal, but there but for the grace of God go I, you know? The other involved a divorce and car payments. She got the car; he got the payments. And he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t actually have a criminal record.
My concerns are political.
Graves is not the usual, annoying county commission candidate who bases his entire campaign on a promise not to raise taxes for anything ever — and for variety frequently promises, you guessed it, to cut taxes. I don’t love taxes, but Utah County is not one of the entities which makes me feel overtaxed.
I’ve seen his type before — including recently and at close range. He promises to sweep into office and slash the budget by millions of the dollars, because government should be smaller. At best, he’s applying a real solution to a real problem which doesn’t exist where he insists on applying it. It’s like doing brain surgery to repair my blown-out knee.
He also swears fealty to the Utah County Republican Party platform, which doesn’t endear him to me at all. It is a problematic document.
So I’m writing in Bill Freeze, who talks sense about growth, economic development, mass transit, and other subjects, and has some leadership experience in the community. Here are instructions on casting a write-in vote, in case you want to join me. I suggest writing down his name and taking it with you to the polls. You won’t see it once you’re there.
Freeze has picked up numerous prominent endorsements, including one from the editorial board of The Daily Herald.
Utah County Commission Seat B
Republican Bill Lee is running opposed, which is unfortunate. No one should run unopposed. I heard rumors months ago about a possible write-in challenger, but I’m not aware that one ever materialized — and if one did but I haven’t heard by now, it’s not a credible campaign anyway.
Lee is too busy promising not to raise taxes and insinuating that the County hides its spending from the voters for my taste, but it’s not like I have an alternative. He and Greg Graves are products of the same county convention, so some ideological similarities are to be expected, but Lee has a much better resume.
Other Utah County Offices
All other Utah County candidates, like Bill Lee, are running unopposed. Here’s a list. Some of them — maybe all of them — are good. But shouldn’t we be embarrassed that they’re unopposed? Wouldn’t they be better, if they were opposed?
Alpine School Board District 3
This race pits one-term incumbent John Burton, who is Board President, against challenger Chris Jolley. Four years ago I ran Burton’s opponent’s unsuccessful campaign, and Burton has been exactly the sort of school board member we thought he’d be, when we were campaigning against him. However, I’m planning to vote for him this time, which will tell you how strongly I feel about something I’ll mention in a moment.
Burton is a fine man, widely esteemed after a distinguished career as a public school teacher and administrator. He was handpicked to take over the seat for the establishment, and he did. He is a fine administrator, but he is very much the establishment’s man, not the people’s.
My own experience with him in office is mixed. When I’ve had questions about board or district policy or administrative actions, he has been swift and thorough in getting me the information I wanted or identifying the contacts who could. This is good, and I am grateful.
When I’ve asked him his own opinion on important issues, he has been silent. This displeases me, because his job is to represent me in governing the school district. I want to know his opinions on relevant issues. However, his silence is consistent with his stated view (during the previous campaign) that the school board is less a representative body of elected legislators than a sort of weak corporate board. (I think that’s wrong, but it is a very popular view in the public school establishment.)
I would like my school board representative to lead the charge against Common Core, a dangerous example of what happens when school districts lose local control. It’s not just that math instruction is bizarre and other subjects are infused with leftist ideology. It’s that Common Core includes the gathering and centralization of data about students and families that is so invasive and so irresistible to tyrants that it ought not be gathered by government at all. (And you thought the NSA and IRS were going rogue.)
Chris Jolley promises to fight Common Core. And he makes some of the right noises about representation and not just being the administration’s willing servant. So you’d think I’d be voting for him, right? I planned tentatively to do exactly that. Then I read his web site and talked to his supporters.
In the past I have opposed a certain sort of zealous Utah conservative, whom I believe to be toxic to the conservative cause and to good government generally. One of the more obvious signs of such a person, I have learned, is a tendency to cite Cleon Skousen’s The Five Thousand Year Leap. My complaint is not against the book itself; I agree with Skousen in numerous matters related to government. But the book has become a symptom.
Another common symptom is a tendency to preach principles, without being able to discuss specific policies or detailed proposals related to the office one is seeking. I may agree with most or all of the principles, but I want competent representation, not just a lay philosopher. I want someone with interests and abilities in matters of policy, not just principles.
For the record, the things Jolley’s supporters are telling me, thinking that they will persuade me to vote for him, actually reinforce my intention to do otherwise. They remind me of a recent American Fork City election in which the voters went badly awry, and in a similar direction.
So I will opt for a good man who is a very competent administrator, but with whom I disagree on some fundamentals, instead of a challenger with (in some cases) more congenial principles, but whom I do not trust to govern well if elected, and whom I believe likely to harm the conservative cause even as he attempts to advance it.[Added 10/21/2014: I was able to talk with Jolley himself for several minutes tonight. He was gracious enough to be candid. I was, perhaps, ungraciously candid in a moment or two of our discussion. In any case, it didn’t take him long further to solidify my position on this race.] [Added 10/31/2014: I have since blogged at some length about this race, in the aftermath of this week’s debate. There is further discussion of why I cannot support Jolley, who would seem in some ways to be my natural ally.]
Utah State School Board, District 9[Note on 10/21/2014: I will report separately on the debate I attended tonight, featuring the three candidates for this position. I would simply replace this section of this point, but I think I want to keep it, to illustrate the evolution of my views, as I went from a reader of web sites to a listener at a fairly good debate.]
I’ve known Joel Wright for years, ever since he was running for county commission and I was a Republican delegate. I like his strong stance on local control of schools, and the fact that by local he doesn’t mean simply state control instead of federal control. I like his opposition to Common Core.
All I know of Heather Groom is what I see on the web. I’m hoping to change that this week. She’s an incumbent, having been appointed (with Utah Senate confirmation) to fill a vacancy on the state board last year. As to Common Core, she doesn’t seem to be in lockstep with proponents, but I can’t tell whether she’s opposed or just trying not to incense voters who are opposed. There isn’t a lot at her site about issues, and what there is seems to be mostly boilerplate. There is no subtlety in her view of local control — by which I mean that her sense of favoring it (as expressed at her site) simply means opposing federal mandates.
So far there is nothing in Joylin Lincoln’s online presence to inspire me. She writes of limiting state and federal intrusion on local decisions, but doesn’t even mention Common Core. And one of her top three concerns is voter apathy, which makes for a nice speech, I guess, but usually seems to me like a placeholder, where a weightier issue should be.
But a candidate’s web presence — much as I am having to rely on it this election — isn’t that much to go on.
This race is the primary reason I’m not ready for early voting yet. I hope to be at Lone Peak High School tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 21, 6:00 to 8:30 pm) for a debate and meet-the-candidates event involving local and state school board candidates. Then I’ll know more. Right now, I’m leaning toward Joel Wright.
There will be some judges on my ballot, I think — not running against anyone, just subjected by law to an up-or-down vote. I don’t know any of them at all and have no reason, so far, to vote against any of them.
American Fork’s PARC Referendum
The other interesting race on my ballot will be a referendum the American Fork City Council has put before the voters. The proposal is to institute a tax allowed by Utah law, which is called in this instance PARC (for Parks, Arts, Recreation, and Culture). It would increase the sales tax in American Fork (paid by American Forkers and other shoppers) from 6.75% to 6.85%.
I’ve discussed this with City officials and with opponents and proponents. I have some concerns about timing and implementation, but I’m voting for PARC. I plan to devote a separate post to this in the near future.[Added 10/31/2014: Here is the separate post about PARC — “and the larger issue it exposes.”].
Proposed Amendments to Utah’s Constitution[Added 10/31/2014: I posted today my discussion of three proposed state constitutional amendments, which I didn’t realize were on the ballot until several days ago.]
These are my thoughts for now. What are yours?