Salt Lake Council candidates working hard till Election Day
He may be a Democratic institution in Salt Lake County, but at-large Councilman Jim Bradley is taking nothing for granted in his re-election campaign against state employee Joseph Demma.
Memories of 1994 deter complacency.
Bradley was then chairman of the Salt Lake County Commission. But 1994 was a big election year for Republicans, and he was swept out of office by Mary Callaghan.
So as he prepares for the Nov. 6 election with Salt Lake Olympics leader Mitt Romney, a Mormon, atop the Republican ticket, Bradley is bent on doing all he can to avoid being unseated again by people voting a straight party ticket.
"My billboards are up and paid for, and I have a million signs out there," said Bradley, 66, who returned to county politics in 2000 when Salt Lake switched from the commission to a mayor-council government. He was re-elected to a six-year term in 2006.
"I don't think my opponent is going to beat me. People aren't familiar with what he stands for," he added. "But the times could change all of that. The times are what they are."
Yes they are. And that gives hope to Demma, 33, a former staff member for Govs. Jon Huntsman and Gary Herbert before his present position as communications director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
"Running against Jim Bradley, I'm not immune to the idea it is a large hill to climb. Jim is a legend in Democratic politics," Demma said. "Jim's been on the council since it was created. He was a viable candidate for governor [in 1996]. You know that taking him on is going to be a challenge. I've been happy with the response and feedback I've received about what I have to offer."
What Demma believes he can offer is experience making government agencies and budgets more efficient. But he insists he is a pragmatist, not an ideologue, and would work judiciously to find savings in the county's $800 million budget.
"If you're going to be a partisan bomb thrower, you tend to not get things done. That's the antithesis of what the people sent you [to office] to do," Demma said. "Anybody can take a hatchet to a budget, but that is reckless and irresponsible. But if I can find inefficiencies in a gigantic state budget, I'm sure we can do it with a county budget."
Bradley said the current nine-member council, in which the Republicans have a 5-4 majority, deserves credit for keeping county programs going through one of the toughest financial periods in American history.
"I've worked well with the other council people. We've been relatively in concert about what the county needs to do," Bradley said, noting he is driven to see several ongoing issues resolved.
"There are important things left to be done. My criminal justice initiatives are halfway there. We have important ordinances governing foothill and canyon development that I want to make sure are appropriate," he added.
And with Salt Lake County destined to have a new mayor next year, with retiring Democrat Peter Corroon to be replaced by either party colleague Ben McAdams or Republican Mark Crockett, Bradley said his experience will be valuable "in making this a seamless transition. The council has to provide leadership during this transition."
As Demma makes the rounds trying to build enthusiasm for his campaign, he said he has found support among young voters and residents of the county's unincorporated east side. They are disenchanted in part, he said, with Bradley's role in establishing a fee to pay for police coverage by the Unified Police District. That fee was replaced this year by a property tax.
Demma also feels Salt Lake County is wrong in proposing a $47 million bond for development of new parks facilities, contending the county should focus instead on fixing $200 million worth of deferred maintenance projects.
"Deferred maintenance is a budget bomb that is going to explode some time. It's irresponsible not to address it," said Demma, who also favors creation of a "rainy day" fund to protect the county from future financial shocks.
And while he dislikes taxes and feels increases should be enacted only as a last resort, Demma said his dedication to transparency in government would mean that "if I ever came to the public with a tax increase, they would know I left no stone unturned in working to avoid that."
Bradley doesn't think the police fee has become a campaign issue, mainly because it was adopted by a bipartisan group of council members. While it was not popular, he said, "given the time and given the options, it was the right course of action. We remedied the negative reactions from some of the population by lowering the fee and then eliminating it."
Working through complicated situations like that stimulates Bradley's desire for public service. "I thoroughly enjoy and believe in local government as a way to immediately affect the quality of life of people in the community," he said. "I get personal reward out of that and think I'm halfway decent at it."
He also enjoys advocating for arts programs and urban farming, noting the latter "is not earth shaking but it's fun and productive. It's county government at its best, providing an opportunity to do real things for the community."
Demma hopes to get his shot at doing that. He has a busy schedule through Election Day "I have events almost every night, except Sundays and Mondays," he said building name recognition.
"You can't just throw up a lot of TV ads," he said. "You have to visit every senior center, every PTA, every community council, walk neighborhoods and work the phones. And that's exactly what we're doing. We have the tools in place to give it a shot."
Party • Democrat
Age • 66
Family • Wife, Gloria, and four grown children
Experience • County Council at-large member 2001-12, county commissioner 1991-94. Democratic candidate for governor, 1996; chairman of the Salt Lake Law Enforcement Service Area board; member of numerous government and civic boards.
Fun fact • Received 2010 National Award for County Arts Leadership
Party • Republican
Age • 33
Family • Wife, Lisa, and two dogs
Experience • Six years as staff member to Gov. Jon Huntsman and chief of staff to then Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert. Managed Herbert's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. After election, became communications director for Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Fun fact • A Florida native, he came west to play lacrosse at the University of Nevada-Reno.