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Online ID of GOP hopefuls helps them in 'nonpartisan' election

Published August 15, 2013 10:42 am

City elections • Meanwhile, Latinos lose all their primaries.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Republicans likely got a boost from a controversial decision by the Salt Lake County GOP to list city candidates registered as Republicans on its website — even though such elections are supposedly nonpartisan.

Meanwhile, although Latinos were excited to have a record number of candidates in city elections this year, all seven Latinos running in primaries in Salt Lake County on Tuesday lost their races — sometimes in spectacular fashion by finishing at the bottom of crowded fields.

Cities in the county had 23 primary races in which the GOP website identified at least one Republican running. Republicans won all they could hope for in 16 of those races (sweeping all available slots in 11 races. They advanced the single Republican listed in five other races and won a slot and lost one in three other races. Finally, identified Republican candidates lost all available slots in four races.

Not surprisingly, the areas where Republicans lost everything possible was in Democratic strongholds — for example losing three out of four Salt Lake City council races. Republicans also lost the one city council race in Cottonwood Heights in which a GOP candidate was listed.

Chad Bennion, chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, said earlier that he decided to list registered Republicans who were running after many voters contacted the party asking about candidate affiliation. The party also provided voter lists and information to GOP candidates.

Bennion is happy with the results.

"We had reasonably good success. Now we're going to do all we can to promote Republicans in the general election," he said. Because of the apparent success, he adds the party will likely continue to list affiliation online in the future.

Jim Dabakis, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, criticizes the move.

"It's sad that Republicans have tried to find political advantage in the municipal elections," he said. "Do they want to turn municipal elections into grandstanding, Washington, D.C.-style … political races, or do we want to keep the long, pristine history of nonpartisan municipal elections?"

But Bennion said city elections are nonpartisan in name only, adding, "Democrats complain, but they have been players in these elections for years, too." The nonpartisan ballot began as a reform pushed by the Progressive movement in the early 1900s, and spread to most U.S. cities. The intent was, and still is, to remove party cues from a voter's decision, making them seek out other information about candidate views and ability.

Meanwhile, Latinos lost in all seven primaries in which they appeared on Tuesday's ballot, including mayoral races in Midvale, South Salt Lake, West Jordan and West Valley City, and city council races in Midvale, West Jordan and West Valley City.

Alex Segura finished last among seven candidates for mayor in West Valley City. Daniel Argueta finished last among nine in West Jordan. Interestingly, those two are on extreme opposite sides of the immigration debate. Argueta is cofounder of the pro-immigration reform Brown Berets, and Segura is cofounder of the anti-illegal immigration Utah Minuteman Project.

Two Latinos will still appear in the general election because they did not face enough opposition to force a primary. They are Maura Olivos, running for the Alta Town Council, and Robert Orrigoni, running for the Murray City Council.

Latinos had accounted for about 6 percent of all city candidates who filed — the most in memory — but Latinos make up about 17.5 percent of the county population.

"The Latinos in Utah are emerging as politically powerful. But sometimes emerging is painful," Dabakis said. "Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn lessons. This is an election where there were a lot of lessons learned."

Bennion also predicted far better success for Latinos in the future. "I think they'll continue to trend upward in success."