Monday, July 03, 2006

Breaking the Myth Machine Part II

Joe Crockett
Field Coordinator
Christian Burridge for Congress

Latest myths being repeated by Pundits:

"The Third District is Overwhelmingly Republican."

"The Race is Virtually Over."

"It is Impossible for a Democrat to Win in Such a Republican District."

"Bush Won With Such a Large Percentage That a Democrat Can't Win in This District."

I am surprised how many of the "insiders" in Utah politics or out-of-state pundits want to call the race. But I ask them: have you examined the history of this district and have you looked at its current make-up?

Let us examine the Facts.

The 3rd district was extensively overhauled after the 2000 election when the GOP-controlled legislature made a failed attempt to gerrymander Congressman Jim Matheson out of his seat. Lets look at the 3rd district when Christian's opponent took office: the 1996 through 2000 cycles when Donald Dunn was the Democratic nominee. The District consisted of the following counties: Carbon, Daggett, Duschesne, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Kane, Morgan, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Summit, Uintah, Utah and Wayne. Also, the district had about 43,500 people who voted in 1996 in Salt Lake County.

However, the district drastically changed in 2002. The new district is now comprised of the west side of Salt Lake County, which had 125,000 people who voted in 2004. Utah County was left without Highland, Alpine, most of Lehi, and American Fork. The east half of Juab County was added, along with all of Millard and Beaver counties. Sanpete and Sevier counties were left in the 3rd. All of the other counties were given to Matheson. With some of the highest concentrations of red-leaning precincts taken out of Utah County, and the addition of heavily blue-leaning areas like West Valley, Kearns, and Taylorsville as well as swing areas like West Jordan and incorporated Salt Lake County, the district is remarkably different than what most pundits believe.

We Democrats have only run two cycles in this vastly changed district, and neither of the candidates raised more than $100,000.00. Christian is the first BYU educated lawyer to run for the seat as a Democrat since Bill Orton.

But then there is the Bush factor. This is the argument that the national pundits like to use. They look at the President's numbers and then just impute his numbers over to Cannon. This is a hasty generalization and is inconsistent with Utah voting patterns when Utahns have a Democratic candidate who appeals to them and their values. In 2000, Bush won with 71% of the vote. But in the same year Matheson won with 55% of the vote. In 1996 Clinton lost with 32%. Meanwhile, Bill Orton received 47% of the vote in "official results." (We will discuss an interesting piece of history on the 1996 unofficial results in a later blog.) Finally, in 1992 and 1994 Bill Orton won with percentages in the high fifties, while Clinton finished third in Utah in 1992. All of these facts indicate that Utahns are reliable cross-over voters. To use a presidential vote as a predictor for a Utah congressional race is like using last year's BYU football record to predict this year's Bingham High football season. They are apples and oranges. The analogy is misleading and stretched. Use the history of the district--not another race for another office in another year.

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