When Rep. Stephen Sandstrom jumped into the 4th Congressional district race against his friend and colleague, Rep. Carl Wimmer, political observers noted that the two were cut from nearly identical cloth.
But BYU Prof. Adam Brown – Utah’s version of stats junkie Nate Silver – dug into the data and found that there might be some daylight between the two.
Brown identified 257 times since 2007 where Wimmer and Sandstrom cast opposite votes on legislation – a shade under 10 percent of the 2,659 votes where both were present.
And drilling down further, looking at the 417 votes that weren’t decided by overwhelming margins, Brown found that Wimmer and Sandstrom differed 23 percent of the time – a fairly considerable margin.
Brown also created an ideological scoring system for legislators that illustrates the gulf, with Wimmer rated as the most conservative of lawmakers and Sandstrom landing nearer to the middle of the Republican caucus.
I looked at the bills where they disagreed during the 2011 session and there were a handful of interesting splits:
• HB15 -- Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Program to educate students about oil and coal. Wimmer voted No.
• HB99 – Motion Picture Incentive Amendments changing the state’s tax credit program. Wimmer voted No.
• HB204 – Protection of Athletes With Head Injuries, requiring concussion policies and parental permission for an injured athlete. Wimmer voted No.
• HB223 – Innkeepers Rights, a bill Sandstrom sponsored that would prevent hotels from prohibiting handguns – Wimmer voted No.
• HB324 – HIV Testing for Sex Offenders, pretty self-explanatory. Wimmer voted No.
• HB450 -- Hospital Provider Tax, allows hospitals to charge a bed tax. Wimmer voted No.
• HB475 – State Energy Amendments, creates State Office of Energy Development. Wimmer voted No.
• HCR8 – A constitutional amendment prohibiting teachers from asking students to provide school supplies. Wimmer voted No.
• HCR15 – Urging Congress to reauthorize the Navajo Electrification Demonstration Project. Wimmer voted No.
• HJR9 – Resolution honoring the Navajo Code Talkers. Wimmer voted No.
• HJR13 – Rules resolution limiting which lawmakers can take lodging reimbursements. Wimmer voted No.
• SB36 – Concealed Firearms Amendments. Requires out-of-state applicants to have a permit in their home states. Wimmer voted No.
• SB59 – School Grading System. Sandstrom voted No.
• SB61 – Requires regular training for those who distribute prescription medicine. Wimmer voted No.
• SB220 – Weatherization Funding. Wimmer voted No.
• SB304 – Preventing Bullying. Requires districts to have anti-bullying program and report bullying. Wimmer voted No.
• SB313 – Prostate Cancer License Plate. Sandstrom voted No.
Again, those are just a few of the votes where they differed. But Brown’s analysis shows that, when you’re dealing with a pair of legislators with fairly long voting records, maybe there is some room to draw distinctions between the two.
-- Robert Gehrke
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