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Salt Lake Tribune (UT) 


"Undecided" still leads governor's race
By Paul Rolly
April 25, 2004

The maneuvering and strategizing and handicapping among the eight Republicans vying for governor have intensified in the final days before the GOP State Convention May 8, and with at least five active delegate polls in the field, some trends are beginning to take shape.
    Surveys by two gubernatorial campaigns are consistent with polls by the Utah Bankers Association, the Utah League of Credit Unions and the Exoro lobbying group. All show Gov. Olene Walker, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Fred Lampropoulos locked in a three-way race for first place. Then there is a gap to the next group, consisting of House Speaker Marty Stephens, former Congressman Jim Hansen and Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras, with Hansen slightly ahead.
    Huntsman is the leader among the top three, although specific numbers vary with the polls. Huntsman, Lampropoulos and Walker are in the 14 to 17 percent range, with the second group at between 6 and 9 percent.
    It should be noted that the number of delegates contacted varies from poll to poll. Even in the largest poll, only 60 percent of the 3,500 state delegates responded. None of the polls is independent, but represent either candidates or special interest groups, and it is impossible to determine a margin of error.
    The real front-runner still is "undecided," with close to 30 percent of the delegates stating they have not made up their minds. Veteran political observers say many of the delegates who name a candidate now could change their minds before they vote.
    Pundits point to two years ago, when congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater gave "the speech of his life" and won the GOP convention in the race for Utah's 2nd Congressional District. Bridgewater later lost in a photo-finish primary to John Swallow, who then lost to Democrat Jim Matheson.
    Another example of convention-day magic was Ted Stewart, who was given no chance by delegate counters in the 1992 race for the U.S. Senate, especially with such big-monied candidates as Joe Cannon and Bob Bennett. Stewart gave a rousing speech at the convention and came in third place out of a field of five. More important, he lost by less than 20 votes to second-place finisher and eventual senator Bob Bennett.
    An intriguing twist to this convention, particularly with so many candidates running for governor, is the relatively new Instant Voter Runoff (IVR) system. The idea is slowly gaining momentum and is being considered in some states for use in primary and general elections. The system was used two years ago in Utah, when the Republicans had three congressional races to be decided at the state convention.
    Under IVR, the delegates vote just one time, but they list their preferences from one to eight in the governor's race. The last-place finisher in the first round is dropped from the list and the candidate listed as second on a ballot picks up those votes for the second round. The process continues until there are two left or one gets 60 percent and the automatic nomination.
    Many candidates have asked delegates already committed to someone else to consider them as number two. Under that plan, someone starting out in fourth or fifth place could end up among the leaders if he or she could pick up enough second-place votes.
    The idea was first proposed by GOP State Central Committee member Mike Ridgeway, considered by many party leaders as a fringe voice who often criticizes the tactics of the establishment. But the concept grew in popularity among more mainstream elements of the party after incumbent Gov. Mike Leavitt was forced into a primary four years ago by Glen Davis, a political unknown. With an instant runoff, they reasoned, Leavitt would eventually have gotten the 60 percent needed to eliminate all competition at the convention.
    San Francisco is employing IVR in its municipal elections this year. Had that been done in Salt Lake City in 1991, Dave Jones or Mike Zuhl would have been elected mayor instead of Deedee Corradini, because those two split the same group of supporters and would have gotten each other's second-place votes. In 1999, Jones or Jim Bradley would likely have been elected mayor for the same reason.
    This year, in the Salt Lake County mayor's race, independent Merrill Cook may take Republican votes from incumbent Nancy Workman and open the door for Democrat Peter Corroon. But if IVR were in place in the county election, Workman likely would pick up Cook's votes on a second ballot.
    Nationally, Al Gore probably would have won the presidency in 2000 by picking up the second-ballot votes of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. George Bush might have won re-election in 1992 by getting the IVR votes of Ross Perot.
    Then there is Louisiana.
    The top two finishers in the 1992 gubernatorial primary were former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who had been indicted in his previous tenure on corruption charges, and David Duke, grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Even Louisiana residents made fun of themselves during the run-off, sporting bumper stickers such as: "Vote for the crook. It's important." And: "Pick the lizard over the wizard."
    Both Edwards and Duke are in prison. With IVR, the two finalists might have been different.

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