Monday, June 8, 2009

A Real Utah Senate Race?

Utah Democrats have a seemingly legitimate candidate to run against Senator Bob Bennett. Sam Granato has decided to make a run for the seat, and the timing and situation are nicely aligned such that there is definite cause for optimism.

Granato is the owner of the Salt Lake City deli chain that bears his name. He is also a non-drinking chairman of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. He is also known in political circles as someone who is involved with local leaders, moderate, and well-liked. This is exactly the type of candidate Utah Democrats need to be running right now: moderate, connected, and likeable.

Combine Granato's personal attributes with a political climate in Utah that is complex these days, and you have the recipe for a potential upset. Pres. Obama is more popular in previously dark red Utah than could ever have been predicted. Sen. Bennett is under fire from state Republican activists because, amazingly, he isn't conservative enough. These charges stem from the unthinkable actions of trying to think through issues instead of just toeing the party line. Because of this Bennett has some primary challengers from the right in the forms of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Tim Bridgewater.

There is recent history suggesting that Utah Republican activists are willing and able to defeat a very conservative federal office holder with someone even more conservative. Jason Chaffetz, our cute little ultra-conservative from Utah county, defeated Chris Cannon in a primary and eventually won a House seat.

So what if the perfect storm occurred? What if Mark Shurtleff defeated Sen. Bennett in the primary? Mark Shurtleff, while no lightweight, isn't exactly the most charming or articulate or popular politician in the state. Combine a candidate who has positioned himself way to the right against a moderate, well-liked Democrat, in a year where Pres. Obama is polling well in Utah, and you might just have the ingredients for an upset. Or, at the very least, a competitive Senatorial race for the first time in years.

And in a state where one party dominates as much as Republicans do in Utah, a competitive statewide race that builds momentum for the Democratic party would be a huge victory.


Andrew said...

There's a fair amount of this going on nationally; I've mentioned before that we're seeing bits of the Republican civil war spill over into their comments. This is a perfect example of how that war is playing out, with definite echoes of Crist/Rubio in Florida and (before he switched parties) Specter/Toomey. I'm curious to hear from the Republican readership of this blog which side they're on -- do they support Bennet or do they want someone who's more ideologically Conservative? Time to make some popcorn...

Daniel H. said...

I would LOVE to see this sort of thing happen. One can only hope that the upset comes.

Anonymous said...

Hey. Just ran across this blog. Interesting. I don't agree with your assessment that the Democratic party is gaining in Utah. Yes, there is major angst over Bennett, but that doesn't translate into good news for the Dems. People want him to be MORE conservative not more moderate. Sorry to rain on your parade.