Deseret Morning News, Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just how GOP can we be?

Utah County's most-conservative status re-enforced

By Jesse Hyde
Deseret Morning News

PROVO: In Utah County, some voters don't even read the ballot.

Instead, they punch one hole — straight-party Republican — and call it good.

Tuesday's general election underscored just how conservative Utah County is: no county in the state delivered a higher percentage of votes for Amendment 3 and the GOP's President Bush, governor-elect Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Of the 144,423 who cast ballots in Utah County, 29 percent — 41,740 — voted straight-party Republican.

"Utah County is essentially a one-party county. It's very conservative," said Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.

That's not a news flash.

Democrats have been trying to buck the trend for years in Utah County, with little success. To illustrate just how conservative the county is, however, consider this:

• Utah County voters were far more concerned about Amendment 3 than the presidential election, the most bitterly contested in recent memory. About 76 percent punched a vote for president while 97 percent weighed in on the amendment.

That added up to 110,143 votes for president and 139,887 on the amendment.

Most of those amendment votes — 82 percent — were for the ban on same-sex marriage.

That result isn't a surprise in an overwhelmingly conservative county where nearly 90 percent of residents belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Several professors at BYU, which is owned by the LDS Church, actively and publicly worked for Amendment 3, and the church appeared to endorse it through a general statement supporting legislation against same-sex marriage.

Even in races that went to Democrats, Utah County stayed its course and voted Republican. The race for Senate District 27, for example, went to Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, 57 percent to 41 percent, but in Utah County, Phillip O. Peay won in a landslide — 73 percent to 23 percent.

And in the 2nd Congressional District race that went to Jim Matheson, the chunk of north Utah County that is part of the district learned toward Republican John Swallow.

Patterson said it's important Democratic party leaders in the state not give up on Utah County.

"If they just throw up their hands and concede Utah County it's to their own peril, because the county is growing," Patterson said. "The Democrats have to give people a reason to not vote straight party."

As the county continues to grow, and transportation issues become more of a problem, voters may turn to Democrats for answers, Patterson said.

"One day Utah County may wake up to wish they had considered other options when they had the chance," he said.


Contributing: Tad Walch

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com


© 2004 Deseret News Publishing Company



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