Local GOP: uh-oh, it’s Obama
Opponent Steve Weinstein is not the only Democratic candidate David Ure is worried about on Tuesday as he bids for a spot on the Summit County Council.
Ure, still one of Summit County’s top Republican names from his time as a state legislator, looks at the politician leading the ticket on the other side — Barack Obama — and wonders what the effect might be on the County Council election.
With there appearing to be a groundswell of Obama support in Summit County, especially in the Park City area, politicians in the local campaigns envision there being the potential for heavy Democratic turnout for the party’s presidential candidate. That, they say, could hurt the Republicans who are seeking the lower-level offices on Tuesday, such as the County Council and the Statehouse.
A seasoned politician, Ure once could count on heavy Republican turnout in the rural areas of his old legislative district. But on Tuesday, Ure wonders whether Weinstein could beat him riding the coattails of Obama.
"You walk around town. I think there’s enough repercussions from the president and some of the things taking place on the Republican side, the emotion’s going to carry over," Ure admits.
He is particularly worried about voters casting straight-party ballots for Democrats as they vote for Obama. If that is the case, the Democrats in the County Council campaign will each receive a vote when someone casts a straight-party ballot for the Democrats.
Ure, who is the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party, expects 2,500 people could pick straight-party ballots for the Democrats. The Republicans, he says, might receive fewer than 1,000 straight-party ballots.
In 2006, straight-party ballots in Summit County favored the Democrats 1,574-1,063, and in 2004, the last time the White House was decided, the Democrats received 2,205 straight-party ballots to the GOP’s 2,097, state and county election records show.
"Tell me how I overcome it . . . I don’t know," Ure says, adding, "I’m just praying I’m wrong . . . I hope I’m overestimating."
Summit County has long been one of the state’s few Democratic strongholds, with a concentration of the state’s minority party living on the West Side. The makeup of the Summit County Commission is 3-0 Democratic, and Democratic state legislative candidates and congressional hopefuls usually win Summit County but lose the election elsewhere in their districts.
Local Democrats are confident as Election Day approaches, saying their voters are energized by the presidential campaign. They have said for months they expect mass turnout as Democrats head to the polls to vote for Obama, who campaigned in the Snyderville Basin in 2007 as the presidential primaries and caucuses approached.
"Popular wisdom is because of the excitement of Obama, it will turn out people," says Kathy Lofft, a Democrat who is competing for one of the local state House of Representatives seats. "Certainly the top of the ticket seems to be performing well."
Lofft will likely need to draw many more votes in the outlying parts of the district than previous Democrats have to defeat Mel Brown, the Republican who holds the legislative seat. She says challengers like her have better chances to win if voter turnout is higher than usual. Lofft, meanwhile, says more Democrats could vote a party-line ballot on Tuesday than is typical.
Other Republicans campaigning for the inaugural five-person Summit County Council, which in 2009 will replace the three-member County Commission, understand Obama’s local popularity, but they are not worried, saying they anticipate voters splitting their ballots between Democrats and Republicans.
Tom Hurd, who is a Republican competing with Democrat John Hanrahan, says Summit County voters normally do not vote a straight-party ticket. He admits, though, the Democrats will enjoy widespread turnout on Tuesday. He projects Obama will carry Park City by a significant margin, but many countywide voters will not choose the lesser campaigns based on party loyalty.
"There’s so many people who are independents here. They’re not straight-party people," Hurd says.
In another County Council campaign, Republican Bill Miles anticipates fewer straight-party ballots for Democrats than others do. He says many Democrats support Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, and those Democrats will not vote a straight-party ballot in order to cast a ballot for Huntsman.
Miles, who is challenging Democrat Sally Elliott, says Huntsman’s presence on the ballot "may balance it out a little bit." He does not see himself competing against Obama’s popularity with Democrats.
"I’m running against Sally," Miles says.
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