What lies ahead for Utah in 2023? Robert Gehrke gives you a sneak peek.

Will Mitt Romney retire? Will Utah celebrate a Rose Bowl victory? Who will be SLC’s next mayor? Gehrke has the answers.

You know, if The Salt Lake Tribune ever withers away like the Great Salt Lake or the value of Tesla stock, I think maybe I’ve found my calling: Robert Gehrke, teller of fortunes and medium to the stars.

At least it seems possible based on a pretty solid set of predictions for 2022.

I accurately forecasted that Evan McMullin would give Sen. Mike Lee a tough fight but would come up short in his challenge. Republicans winning the U.S. House but Democrats holding onto the Senate? Yep. Called that one, too.

Closer to home, I predicted that Utah Democrats would lose two state House seats on the heels of redistricting — which I’m going to call close enough because they lost a third to retirement.

And I correctly divined that an audit of Utah elections would come up clean and that drought would continue to grip the state, which admittedly is kind of a layup.

Sure, there were a few misses. I had the Utah football team winning the Rose Bowl, but peering into the future can be a tricky business and I think what I actually foretold was the U. beating Penn State on Jan. 2. None of the Real Housewives got divorced, at least not yet. And the Utah Jazz didn’t make it to the Western Conference Finals.

Still, a decent record, all things considered. Now we’re entering a new year, so let’s see if I can do it again.

Ms. Mayor, again

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has come out swinging in his bid to unseat Mayor Erin Mendenhall, and he’s got a lot of backing from the developer community. I suspect a few more candidates will get into the race in the next few months, but the two mayors will remain the main contenders.

It has the makings for a brutal campaign, centering on homelessness and character issues. In the end, Mendenhall hasn’t really done enough to make voters want a change — even the 9th and 9th whale seems pretty OK in hindsight — and she will win by double digits.

Mitt’s adventures

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Sen. Mitt Romney is in trouble among Republicans. How he responds will be the most interesting political story of the year. He will get high-profile challengers — probably Attorney General Sean Reyes and potentially Rep. Chris Stewart or House Speaker Brad Wilson, although I think former Rep. Jason Chaffetz sits it out.

There’s chatter that Romney might opt out of running again — who needs the headache? But, like it or not, he has become the last bulwark of old-guard conservatism, so I don’t see him throwing in the towel. That said, I envision him following the McMullin model, opting out of the GOP primary and running as a conservative independent where his mainstream popularity will be enough to eke out a win.

Political positioning

Donald Trump will step up his hijinks out of desperation as his popularity plummets and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ascends. House Republicans will make good on their promise to aggressively investigate President Joe Biden but will overplay their hand and mostly come up empty. Nonetheless, by year’s end, Biden will announce he would not seek reelection, opening up a free-for-all on the Democratic side.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule against North Carolina legislators trying to keep state courts from reviewing redistricting boundaries, setting the stage for a victory for groups challenging the gerrymandered boundaries drawn by the Utah Legislature (although perhaps not until 2024).

And the rest

  • Utah’s white-hot economy will cool in 2023, bogged down by unsustainably high housing prices. More of Utah’s tech companies will cut jobs and several will fold.

  • The 2023 NBA All-Star Game will bring with it some modest liquor reforms and a short-term loosening of laws, as we saw in the 2002 Olympics. But as the end of the year approaches, discussions will be taking place about a potential ballot initiative to revamp the state’s booze policies.

  • The 2023 Utah Legislative session will be one of the most unhinged in years, with the Republican’s ultra-right members feeling empowered. Legislative leaders will struggle to maintain a sense of order and reason.

  • Salt Lake City will emerge as a heavy favorite to host the 2030 Olympics, but the announcement will not come until 2024.

  • Our big early snowfall will give way to the return of drought conditions, the Great Salt Lake will reach a new record low and Lake Powell will slip closer to deadpool, the level where the dam can no longer produce hydroelectric power, forcing leaders in the West to confront hard realities about its future.

  • In sports, Utah will beat Penn State by five points to win their first Rose Bowl, the Jazz will hang around in the fight for the last playoff spot but slip out of the mix as the rebuild continues and (this is a holdover from last year) my long-suffering Detroit Lions will make the NFL playoffs.

And finally a wish: That in the coming year we can all find it in ourselves to be kinder, more tolerant and compassionate towards each other.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking my prognosticating skills to Las Vegas.