West Valley City • One sure thing in the race for the redrawn Utah House District 30 is that the incumbent will win.
And the incumbent will lose, too.
It is the only legislative district in the state where, because of redistricting after the 2010 census, an incumbent Republican will face an incumbent Democrat in the Nov. 6 election. Both sides expect it to be close between Republican Fred Cox and Democrat Janice Fisher — and maybe one of only a few truly close House races statewide.
“Two years ago, [Republican Gov.] Gary Herbert and [GOP U.S. Sen.] Mike Lee received 51 percent of the vote within the redrawn area,” Cox says. “That shows this is a swing district. It could go either way.”
Both incumbents have some advantages and drawbacks.
“Only about 15 percent of the new district is from my old district, and about 85 percent is in my opponent’s district,” Fisher says about the biggest obstacle she faces.
“They drew the new boundary right down the middle of my street. My neighbors across the street aren’t in my district anymore,” she says. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls from people who received absentee ballots, and they say, ‘Janice, you aren’t on my ballot.’ I have to tell them what happened and that they aren’t in my district anymore.”
Fisher was so upset about the boundaries that she was the only member of the House who voted against them last year. At the time, she blamed Republicans for the lines — and saw it as possible retribution for her outspoken criticism of the Utah Transit Authority.
But Republicans said then that they let Democrats largely redraw boundaries in areas they currently control — but population shifts dictated that they had to shrink their seven current districts in Salt Lake County to six. They say it was Democrats who chose Fisher as the one who would end up facing an incumbent Republican.
Regardless, Fisher says one advantage she has is that she served 16 years on the West Valley City Council. “So I’ve been trying to reintroduce myself to people in the city and remind them of the good things we did then — like building the Maverik Center, the family fitness center and attracting the American Express business park.”
Cox says Fisher likely started with better name recognition in part because of her years on the City Council, and in part because he has yet to run in an election himself. Cox, an architect, was appointed two years ago to replace former GOP Rep. Ron Bigelow, who resigned to become the state budget director.
“So they’ve never seen my name on a ballot,” he said. But, he adds, he’s been working hard to build name recognition with signs, social media, door-to-door campaigning and newsletters. “Sometimes I don’t knock on as many doors as I intend, because I talk to people and they have concerns — and I need to address them.”
He says an advantage as the Republican in the race is that he is running the same time that Mitt Romney is topping the ticket in his presidential race.
“If I get as many votes in our area as Romney does, I’ll win,” he said. “But he has better name recognition.”
Both candidates say they have been stressing the same general issues: jobs, the economy, improving eduction and improving transportation in their area — and pushing to keep taxes low in difficult times. Both are also trying to tout their records as lawmakers.
And both predict it will be close. “I feel good and have been working hard. But I don’t know how it will turn out,” Fisher said. Cox said, “Most of the district is from my old area, but she still has better name recognition. I think it will be close.”