Whether Sen. Orrin Hatch runs for an eighth term next year or retires at age 84 and is replaced on the Republican ticket by Mitt Romney, presumptive Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson’s candidacy probably is toast.
The same may go for Democrat Ben McAdams’ congressional bid as he takes on Rep. Mia Love in Utah’s Republican-leaning 4th District.
Why? Well, it’s not just because McAdams and Wilson are Democrats, although that might be enough to doom them in Utah. No, there actually is something worse on their resumes: They are elected Salt Lake County officials — McAdams is mayor; Wilson is a County Council member.
Forty years of history regarding the Salt Lake County Commission and its successor form of government, the County Council, suggest that county elective office is where aspiring political careers go to die.
The only Salt Lake County commissioner to successfully run for higher office during that stretch was Mark Shurtleff, who served as a Republican on the commission before the county changed its form of government to a mayor-council system. He then ran for Utah attorney general and won, serving three terms.
Numerous other commissioners and council members have tried and failed to climb the political ladder, even when they seemed to have the advantage of experience and name ID.
The most recent examples are current Republican council members Max Burdick and Richard Snelgrove.
Burdick was one of eight Republicans vying to replace Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott, who resigned midterm because of medical issues. Burdick finished in last place, with seven measly votes, among the GOP delegates.
Snelgrove bartered his name ID as a council member for a chance to become Murray’s mayor. He couldn’t get past the primary.
Burdick and Snelgrove take their places in a long line of politicians who hoped to move on to higher office, only to have those ambitions snuffed.
In the 1970s, Ralph McClure was a fresh young Salt Lake County commissioner with a seemingly bright political future when he ran for Congress. He failed to make it out of the Democratic convention.
Democratic County Commissioner Pete Kutulas, who also served in the 1970s, tried to upgrade to county sheriff, but the longtime law enforcement officer lost in the general election.
Republican County Commissioner Tom Shimizu lost his bid for Congress to Democrat Wayne Owens in 1986. Fellow Republican Commissioner Mike Stewart failed to emerge from the Republican state convention when he ran for governor in 1992, and Commissioner Bill Dunn fell short in the GOP primary for state auditor to David Monson in 1972.
Democratic County Commissioner Jim Bradley lost badly in his bid for governor in 1996 as did Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon in 2012, and Wilson, who served an earlier term on the County Council, failed to survive the primary when she ran for Salt Lake City mayor in 2007.
It’s true that Gary Herbert was a longtime Utah County commissioner before he ascended to governor, but he jumped to that position because Jon Huntsman Jr. picked him as his lieutenant governor running mate and later resigned to become ambassador to China.
While local officials tout county and municipal governments as the closest to the people and, therefore, the most important, Joe Hatch, another former Salt Lake County Council member and one-time Democratic Party county chairman, has his own theory: ”By being closest to the people, whatever decisions you make — zoning changes, street repairs, golf course budgets — will tick off half of them.”
Senior discount? • Larry Pino is 96 years old, but he remains alert and spry enough to earn a driver license and operate a car.
But he inadvertently parked in the wrong place at his Holladay condominium complex on Carriage Lane, taking stall No. 22 instead of his assigned No. 24.
Rather than being alerted about the mistake, however, he left his condo the next morning to discover his car was not there. He called the Holladay precinct of the Unified Police Department and learned his car had been towed.
“It cost me 200 smackeroos to get it back,” he mused.