Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. For those of us in Utah, that means our mail-in ballots must be postmarked the day before, or earlier, if we don’t want to visit a polling place in person on Election Day. For further information about polling places and more, see vote.utah.gov.
Before we proceed, here’s a pro tip: Your ballot will not tell you that it is continued on the reverse side, but it might be. Mine is. Don’t forget to check.
Now let’s look at my ballot. Yours is probably different in some ways, but if you’re in Utah, a lot will be the same. I’ll summarize my thoughts on each race and issue. They certainly don’t have to be your thoughts too. Comments are a welcome place for your thoughts here, as always.
I’ll hazard some predictions too, at least for my own entertainment.
The first thing on my ballot is an option for straight party voting, meaning that that a single mark here would be voting for every candidate from that party. Please don’t do that. Even in our age of toxic tribalism, it’s bad form to consider only a candidate’s party affiliation. More important, some of the races and all of the other items are nonpartisan, so it wouldn’t save you much time anyway. And some of the parties listed have few if any candidates in races on the ballot. My ballot has no one from the Green Party at all, for example, but the Green Party is still one of my straight party options.
There are five candidates for the United States Senate seat currently occupied by Senator Orrin Hatch, who is retiring:
- Tim Aalders (Constitution Party)
- Craig R. Bowden (Libertarian Party)
- Reed C. McCandless (Independent American Party)
- Jenny Wilson (Democratic Party)
- Mitt Romney (Republican Party)
Forgive me, but Alders, Bowden, and McCandless are irrelevant — and I wonder if “Independent <anything> Party” is an oxymoron. Even more irrelevant are seven write-in candidates (hence the line on the ballot). The only name I recognize among the write-ins is Cody Judy, and that’s from a 1993 episode in BYU’s Marriott Center that sent him to prison, not from any of his campaigning.
Jenny Wilson is a credible, intelligent Democrat with some name recognition in the Salt Lake Valley. I’ve followed her for years. So, if you want to do your part to swing the Senate to the Democratic side (an unlikely outcome, to be sure), you have someone you can support with a straight face.
For my part, I like my tax cut. I think an attempt to impeach and remove the President is a futile exercise in bad theater. I think we should strengthen border enforcement (and legal immigration), not dissolve the agency responsible for its management. I find leading Democrats’ open practice, advocacy, and defense of incivility (until they’re in charge again, as their 2016 presidential nominee recently put it) to be toxic to good government. I think identity politics — the modern name for tribalism — is detrimental to society and government. And (as you may have deduced from my recent comments about the minority side of the Judiciary Committee) I think switching Senate committees to Democratic leadership would be disastrous folly.
Mitt Romney is not far-right, like the Utah Republican Party. He’s somewhat conservative, somewhat moderate — a good fit for Utah in general. He’s not the heavyweight that he would replace, in terms of influence in the Senate, but he’s a nationally prominent voice, and he has publicly opposed President Trump (whom in most ways I dislike) when many prominent Republicans wouldn’t. I’ll be happy to vote for him again, as I did in 2012.
Romney will win by a large margin. And overall it looks like the Republicans will slightly increase their majority in the Senate.
US House of Representatives, Utah District 3
There are four candidates in my US House District:
- John Curtis (Republican Party)
- James Courage Singer (Democratic Party)
- Timothy L. Zeidner (United Utah Party)
- Gregory C. Duerden (Independent American Party)
If the Republican candidate were Jason Chaffetz, who previously occupied this seat, I’d likely vote for the United Utah Party — just to encourage them. But John Curtis is very nearly my ideal congressman: intelligent, conservative but practical, far more of a workhorse than a show horse. I’ve had some interaction with him in person too, where he impressed and excelled. As a result, I haven’t paid much attention to the other candidates. You may have done better, and perhaps you should, but I’ve mostly been studying other contests.
As to the larger picture, I am no longer a Republican, but I prefer a Republican majority to a Democratic one, for most of the reasons I mentioned in the previous section. I’m less confident that Republicans will hold the House than I am that they will hold the Senate, and Election Day is still more than two weeks away. But I think the “blue wave” will turn out to have been undermined by the Democrats themselves. I think they’ve energized Republicans and turned off more of their own prospective voters than they realize, through the Ford/Kavanaugh matter and by their egregious rhetoric and tactics generally.
Curtis will win by a mile. And the GOP will emerge with a narrow majority in the House.
Utah House of Representatives, District 56
The only candidate on the ballot for this seat is Republican incumbent Kay Christofferson. I don’t dislike him, but an uncontested race at this level is a crying shame. I had hoped for Democrat and United Utah candidates — both of whom would have been long shots, I admit. But it’s unhealthy to allow an elected representative an uncontested path to reelection.
Ahem. Christofferson will win by two miles. And the GOP will retain its regrettable 75-percent supermajority in the Utah Legislature.
Utah State School Board, District 9
There are two candidates on my ballot for this nonpartisan race:
- Cindy Davis
- Avalie Muhlestein
Cindy Davis finished far ahead in the primary, and her campaign has not flagged since then, so she would have to be the favorite. I think either candidate would do well, perhaps in different ways. I haven’t finally decided who gets my vote, but I’m leaning toward Davis, on the strength of her performance in a primary debate I moderated, and because I have some firsthand experience with her that impressed me.
If you want to get acquainted, here is audio from that debate. There were two other candidates involved, so you’ll have to filter them out, in a sense, but it’s good stuff. (These candidates were in the second half of that debate.) My own notes on the candidates are in my primary election guide.
Utah County Commission, Seat A (county-wide)
The candidates are:
- Tanner Ainge (Republican Party)
- Teri McCabe (United Utah Party)
Either of these is likely to be a step up from the incumbent, Greg Graves, who has been under some dark clouds since before he was elected.
I wanted to love the United Utah Party candidate, because I think one-party rule is toxic, no matter which party is involved. But Teri McCabe hasn’t closed the deal for me. She has some interesting experience and might make a good city council candidate, but I think Tanner Ainge‘s experience and skill set are much better suited to a county commissioner’s job. I didn’t love him when he was running for Congress in the special election which John Curtis won, but I think he’s better suited to the county level, at least for now, and more likely than McCabe to excel there.
Ainge will win by a mile and a half in any case.
Utah County Commission, Seat B (county-wide)
The candidates are:
- Jeanne Bowen (Democratic Party)
- Bill Lee (Republican Party)
Bill Lee is the incumbent. I find him too eager to declare that limits the US Constitution places on the US government also apply to local levels of government — which notion actually runs counter to the Constitution itself — but I don’t think he would be a bad choice in this election. (The lack of enthusiasm you’re detecting is real.)
Jeanne Bowen seems to be a Utah DINO — Democrat in Name Only, or in other words probably a Republican in another state. That’s fine with me; I’ve voted for a Democrat or two for county commission in recent years. But I have searched in vain for clear statements of specific things she wants to accomplish if elected. Her campaign website mostly offers fluffy generalities about believing in people and improving communication. Call me harsh, but this is a deal-breaker for me.
So for me, it’s Bill Lee by default.
He’ll win big.
Utah County Attorney
The candidates are:
- David O. Leavitt (Republican Party)
- W. Andrew McCullough (Libertarian Party)
At least Andrew McCullough is up front about embracing a tired Libertarian trope, marijuana. He supports Proposition 2 but also wants to “move towards full legalization.” The latter (not the former) disqualifies him for my vote.
I don’t have any compelling reason not to vote for David Leavitt, so I will.
He’ll win big.
Utah County Clerk/Auditor
The candidates are:
- Jason Christensen (Independent American Party)
- Amelia Powers (Republican Party)
I’ve struggled to find information from Jason Christensen that is specific to this campaign, but read his profile at the Daily Herald and see if you’d want to hire him or work with him. He sounds like he has a chip on his shoulder. He preaches the independence of the office he seeks, but he is the state leader of his own party, which he believes has been maligned and illegally disadvantaged by the Utah County Clerk’s office. I am . . . unattracted.
Meanwhile, Amelia Powers seems competent, has some relevant experience, and appears to attend more to the work to be done than to ideology, so I’ll vote for her. As I do so, I’m hoping she’s not part of the local GOP good ol’ boys network. (It’s possible that they’ve diversified, but . . .)
Powers will win, of course.
Utah County Sheriff
Republican Mike Smith is the only candidate on the ballot, and I already told you what I think of uncontested races. Need I say more?
Smith will win by two miles.
Alpine School Board, District 3
The candidates are:
- Sarah Beeson
- ‘Afa K. Palu
Both these candidates participated in the primary debate I moderated (first half), and my personal thoughts are in my primary election guide. I like them both, as you’ll see in those notes, but I’ll be voting for Sarah Beeson — partly on the strength of personal friendship, but also because I liked her answers about the proper levels of state and federal control over local education slightly better than I liked Dr. Palu’s, and I like her overt passion for the arts and humanities, not just STEM.
Beeson is the likely winner, based on her primary performance and what I sense is better name recognition.
You’re pretty much on your own here. There are seven judges on my ballot — for up/down votes, nothing competitive — and I don’t know any of them. I have noted that Holly Richardson and others object to Christine S. Johnson and Brent H. Bartholomew, based on their words and actions in certain types of cases, so I may vote no on those two — but you should get closer to the source if you’re interested in their reasons. Look for an October 14, 11:54 a.m., post at Holly’s Facebook page and this Salt Lake Tribune op/ed.[Late addition: See also this Tribune op/ed, rebutting Holly Richardson. Thanks to alert reader T.C. Taylor for pointing it out.]
Constitutional Amendment A
This proposed amendment would make a minor adjustment in the eligibility of active duty military for a property tax exemption. Basically, they’d still be eligible if their minimum 200 days of service out of state came in two consecutive calendar years instead of one. Its fiscal impact is minimal overall, but large enough for those families. Since we grievously underpay our soldiers and sailors, I’m all for this one.
I will vote for the amendment. I expect it will pass.
Constitutional Amendment B
This amendment would eliminate the requirement that government entities pay property tax on land or buildings they lease from private owners.
The common argument in favor is that it doesn’t make sense for government to pay tax to government. While it’s probably true that we’ll end up paying a given dollar to some level of government either way, still, because we’re talking about different levels of government, the argument strikes me as weak. (Someday I’d like to explore the idea of higher levels of government paying property taxes to lower levels of government on the land they use. That’s pretty radical, and it’s not at issue here.)
A prominent argument against the amendment is weak too; it says that private property owners shouldn’t benefit further from the government using their land. They already get the rent money, after all; why should they get a tax exemption too? However, reportedly this amendment would only apply to cases where the government entity pays the taxes directly. So the argument is irrelevant.
I’ll probably vote for the amendment, but it’s hard to care.
Constitutional Amendment C
This proposed amendment would allow the Utah Legislature to call itself into limited session in certain emergency circumstances, rather than relying solely on the governor to call such a session.
Opponents say that a governor refusing to call a special session when one was clearly needed has only happened once, so this is an exceptional situation and not worthy of an amendment to the state constitution. I dismiss this argument on the grounds that constitutional provisions for things which may never happen — or may prove rare, at least — are quite common. Note the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, for example.
Moreover, the legislative branch, being more representative of the people, is supposed to be first among equals; I have no problem allowing them to call a special session even if the governor disagrees, and I think the limits in this proposed amendment are sufficient.
I’ll be voting for the amendment. I suspect it will pass.
Nonbinding Opinion Question #1
The question here is, shall we add 10 cents per gallon to our gasoline tax to help fund local roads, so that money from the general fund currently used for that purpose can be diverted to education?
On one hand, there’s no way around our demographics. For the foreseeable future, we’ll need more and more money to fund public education. So I’m not opposed to finding funding for it. I don’t even grouse about my property tax bill, which arrived this week, when it tells me that 66.7 percent of my property tax goes to the Alpine School District.
Furthermore, local roads are also a chronic pain point for me, given that, all else being equal, we prefer to strangle our city budgets.
On the other hand, this is basically an expensive opinion poll. If it passes, the change described is not automatically enacted. It’s nonbinding. It’s just a little extra lobbying pressure on the legislature, one way or another — and it’s going to be a close call, probably, not one of those “for the children” things that always passes handily when little else will.
Proponents have turned me off with some of their hype too, which is all-but-officially sponsored by the public education system itself. Worst are the text message campaigns telling us exactly how many dollars will go to each classroom in our local school. This is manipulative if not delusional. We can only guess at numbers, because this question by itself enacts nothing, and there’s no telling what the Legislature will actually do.
I’m voting against, but it doesn’t matter. You could reasonably vote yes, if you prefer, but it won’t matter.
I’ll go out on a limb and saying this one will fail by a nose — but it won’t matter. Why are we wasting public funds on the question itself?
Shall a law be enacted to establish state-controlled processes for the growth, sale and purchase, and use of marijuana (cannabis) for medical purposes?
If you read the full proposal — almost 17 full pages of fine print in the official Voter Information Pamphlet — you’ll see that it’s quite thorough. You also might need some sort of controlled substance to help you get through the last few pages. I had a glass of water, and it wasn’t enough.
Cannabis appears to have legitimate medical uses, and some of them may directly attack our opioid empidemic. Good things, both, in my dubiously humble opinion.
I don’t want to analyze the debate in detail. I do want to note that one of those passages of Latter-day Saint scripture on the billboards is incorrectly attributed to King Mosiah, not King Benjamin, and that another one simply assumes that cannabis is a “wholesome herb.” These were good for a laugh; I’m cynical that way.
I wonder if the much-ballyhooed compromise announced recently wasn’t an attempt to undercut the vote for this proposition. I’m cynical that way too.
In any case, I have two basic objections to Proposition 2, which are my reasons for voting against it.
First, if it’s a medicine, let’s treat it like one — even if that requires some additional time and effort, including some lobbying of the federal government. In my reading of the full proposition, I found a lot of slack that could be exploited for recreational purposes.
Second, the prime mover behind this proposition is Libertas, Connor Boyack’s libertarian think tank. I actually like some of what they do, though I’m not a libertarian. But I’ve heard so many libertarians advocate the full legalization of all drugs, especially marijuana, for so many years, that I want my legislation to come from a source whose motives I trust more than libertarians.
I’ll be voting no. I think it will be close, but I’m guessing the proposition will fail.
This proposition proposes to extend Medicaid benefits to 150,000 (or 170,000?) low-income Utahans. It would mostly (more than 90 percent) be at federal expense at first, but if the federal government backs out, partly or fully, the state would be required to supply the difference.
The problem is, I expect the federal government to do exactly that, leaving Utah on the hook for a lot more money than we think we’re agreeing to pay here.
I’m voting no. If helping these people with their medical costs is desirable, let’s find a Utah solution — perhaps a state tax credit? — which we can adjust as necessary. Besides, didn’t Utah already close the Medicaid/ObamaCare gap?
I’m guessing this measure will fail, because it gives the whiff of a tax increase, to say nothing of a whiff of ObamaCare.
This proposition would establish a seven-member bipartisan commission to recommend redistricting plans to the legislature for congressional, legislative, and state school board districts.
“Bipartisan” is the right word. Unofficially, the adjective nonpartisan appears often in advocacy of this measure. If you believe that redistricting can be nonpartisan, I assume you’ll also believe that you should cash out your bank accounts and deliver the money to me in an unmarked gym bag, just because it would please me. (It would.)
That said, I have no strong objection, all else being equal, to a commission making recommendations to the Legislature. However, the Utah Constitution grants the Legislature exclusive authority in redistricting, and I’d like to keep it there — not because I think they’re wonderful at it, but because at least they’re directly accountable to the people, and a commission wouldn’t be. And I prefer that the legislature not have a commission to hide behind.
Ergo, I’m voting no. But I kinda sorta suspect this one will pass.
So there you have it, in a 3000-word nutshell. One guy’s opinion(s).
What do you think and why? Please feel outrageously welcome to comment in the civil, relevant manner which my valued readers prefer.
Thanks for reading.