Looking into the future of nonpartisan municipal elections, imagine the mayor of a Salt Lake County city ordering maintenance workers to remain idle until the city council defunds a controversial curb-and-gutter project.
Or imagine the mayor’s State of the City address interrupted by a council member’s shout: "You lie!"
Or imagine council members questioning where the mayor was born, demanding to see his birth certificate.
I bring up these hypotheticals because the Salt Lake County Republican Party, under the watchful eye of Chairman Chad Bennion, has decided to infiltrate nonpartisan races in the most partisan way possible.
Bennion decided earlier this year to place on the GOP’s website candidates for city councils and mayoral posts who are registered Republicans, therefore making a statement that party does matter in these races that officially are nonpartisan.
That decision and the active participation in some races by veteran party operatives have brought a partisan in-your-face atmosphere to campaigns for offices that traditionally oversee such nonpolitical operations such as street repair, zoning ordinances and garbage pickup.
The most blatant example this year is in the Holladay mayor’s race where Blaine Anderson is running against Robert Dahle.
At a recent debate at City Hall, after the two gave similar answers on issues facing the city, one questioner asked them to state their differences.
"I’m a Republican," said Anderson.
When an audience member retorted that it was inappropriate to bring party affiliation into the contest, another man stood up and accused Dahle of being supported by Democrats.
Indeed, he does list among his backers Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, Sen. Pat Jones and other elected officials who are Democrats, but he lists Republican supporters as well.
In recent days, the specter of partisan politics has re-emergedwith a flurry of direct-mail fliers attacking Dahle for not living in Holladay "very long" while Anderson "has lived in the community for 20 years" and that his daughters "graduated from our schools."
They graduated from Olympus High. Dahle’s children went to Cottonwood (is that like Kenya)?
The flier took on the character of the typical partisan direct mailer perfected by Karl Rove (another Olympus High graduate) that attempts to paint the political opponent as "the other."
A recent debate was attended by a well-known Republican operative who does not live in Holladay but was there to support Anderson. When Terry Palmer, wife of Holladay City Councilman Jim Palmer, asked him why he was there and why partisanship was being employed, he said that because most of the elected officials in the Holladay area are Democrats, a Republican should be elected mayor for "balance."
A recent fundraising letter to residents said they should contribute to Anderson because he is "the only conservative running for mayor."
It was signed by Josh Romney (Mitt’s son); Dennis Webb (the current mayor), Bennion (the county GOP chairman), Anne-Marie Lampropoulos (who lost a contentious legislative race to Moss); Sandy Thackeray (who also lost to Moss), and Helen Redd (who was Lampropoulos’ campaign manager).
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