Don’t worry Democrats, HD 24 is safe!

Of course, the big news coming out of Utah Democratic politics today is the attempted removal of Ellen Brady by members of the SLCo Democratic Party Executive Committee. editor Bryan Schott broke the news on his website. However, Schott has also been know for constantly slamming Utah Democrats while also claiming to be “on the left” whenever he is on a podcast. The way he accomplishes this is by stirring up the pot when it comes to political gossip, and today’s article is no exception.

In the case of the SLCo clusterf*ck, that is something that should be worrisome for Democrats. However, there is another line in the article that caught me by surprise. Others might have glanced over it, but I had to do a double-take. In his article, Schott said that Republicans “privately think they have a chance of winning HD 24”. Really, they do? Based on what?

Well, Democrats, you can breathe easy, because there is absolutely no way in hell that the Republicans even have the most remote chance of winning the seat being vacated by Rebecca Chavez-Houck. The fact that the claim has been made is extremely comical. But, just to make the point, let’s look at the numbers in this district to put this absurd idea behind us once and for all!

First, let’s look at the most recent election results. Here is how all of the Democratic candidates performed for the major offices in HD 24 in 2016.

hd24 stats

Yes, not a single Democratic candidate received under 60%. In fact most were around or well into the 70% range, with Ben McAdams nearly hitting 80%. On average, the Democratic performance was 69.18% in HD 24. If we look at the movable vote in the district, even taking out two standard deviations of the mean, there is a 95% chance that a Democratic candidate would get 58.9% of the vote or more. Hell, let’s even take it to three standard deviations, making it a 99.7% chance that a Democratic candidate in this district would win 53.8% of the vote. Basically, it is impossible for a Democrat to dip below 50% in this district.

With that out of the way, what about precinct data. Here is a map of HD 24’s 2016 performance. Only one precinct shows any Republican tendencies, and that is Precinct SLC035, which is right across the street from The Beehive House and Temple Square, and only consists of a few blocks. Otherwise, almost every other precinct is deep blue.


democratic map hd 24

So, when it comes to House District 24, I have no clue why Republicans feel that they can win it. Yes, there are always surprises. But looking at data from previous elections, it is impossible. I mean, really, it is statistically impossible. Therefore, I am not sure Republicans are telling about this because, well, they will publish anything, or if some Utah Republicans have a delusional belief that they can actually win the seat. But Democrats don’t worry, you are safe!

McAdams vs. Love – Did 2016 teach us anything?

Let’s face it, 2016 was not a good year for Democrats in Utah. Hillary Clinton led the Democratic ticket in a state that went 79% for Bernie Sanders in the caucuses. Mike Weinholtz, who spent $3.1 million on his campaign for governor, only received 1.6%, or 23,489 votes, more that Misty Snow who only spent $72,385 for her entire campaign. With Weinholtz spending $129.94 per extra vote, that probably speaks louder about his campaign structure than it did the candidate himself, though something was flawed. For Congress, the Democrats dipped back into the same well again by selecting Doug Owens, thus showing a lack of candidates interested in taking the next step. Basically, it wasn’t great.

With that, there was one positive, and that was the reelection of Ben McAdams as Salt Lake County Mayor, winning 59.4% of the vote. This really wasn’t much of a surprise considering McAdams outperformed expectations in 2012, capturing 54.5% of the vote in his first run for County Mayor.

For Republicans, Donald Trump was expected to drag down the ticket. But in the end, it was only Trump who performed poorly in Utah. Other Republicans still performed at their previous levels. However, in Salt Lake County, Mia Love did perform better in 2016 than she did in 2014. Therefore, things were looking up for her.

The 2016 election gives us a possible look as to what we might expect in the upcoming McAdams vs. Love match up for the 4th Congressional District. And with a little bit of playing with the numbers, we might get an idea of who has the advantage in the 4th CD.

To figure out who might be the stronger candidate, I went ahead and simply compared the performance of McAdams and Love to the overall performance of candidates of their respective parties in the 2016 election. I used 2016 instead of 2012 because both have strong name identification in 2016, which will play a factor this time around.

If we look at the map below, we can see how Ben McAdams performed to the average Democratic candidate. As we can see, McAdams outperformed the Democratic average in every single precinct, which isn’t a surprise. But this map gives us an idea of where McAdams is strongest. Both Taylorsville and Millcreek show strong support for McAdams. However, the most interesting area for McAdams is in Riverton, where he nearly won some precincts that traditionally go strongly Republican. In fact, his performance in most of the southern part of Salt Lake County seems impressive, performing 20%+ compared to the Democratic average.

Click here for map in Tableau if above map is disabled.

As for Mia Love, the story is quite different. In the map below, the green indicates where Love performed stronger than the Republican average, and red where she under-performed the average. And yes, there is a lot of red on that map! She does perform above the GOP average in Murray, and in sporadic precincts throughout the county. But overall, this does seem to show that some GOP voters (though only a few) voted for Owens, even if they voted GOP in all the other races.

Click here for map in Tableau if above map disabled.

So, looking at it from a bird’s eye view, this looks pretty good for McAdams. In some cases he is performing nearly 30% stronger than the average Democrat in the county. Heck, he is even pulling within striking distance of winning precincts in West Jordan, Riverton, and Herriman. Therefore, if we look at past election results, McAdams seems to be in the driver’s seat.

But before the McAdams campaign starts cracking open the grape juice (because, you know, alcohol), there are a few things that need to be noted. First, this is comparing a presidential year to a midterm election. While the performance usually stays the same in Utah regardless of election cycle (more to come on that soon), it still needs to be noted. But even with that being the case, there shouldn’t be much deviation. Second, McAdams might have performed strong against the Democratic average because the Democratic ticket was weak. This would inflate his numbers. Also, races that were not contested were taken out of the equation. This means that a lot of strong State House Democrats who did not have a Republican opponent were not included in the average. This could have bolstered the Democratic performance, but only slightly. With that, looking at the bright side for Democrats, these numbers could indicate how strong they might perform with the right candidate, especially in the southern part of the county. Therefore, while it isn’t a victory yet, it does show some promise.

While many might consider the real story of this research to be the strength of Ben McAdams, what I see as the real story is the lack of support for Mia Love. Yes, she is a Utah County candidate, but her under-performance numbers here should be concerning, especially for someone who is considered the an up-an-coming candidate within the national Republican Party establish (or former Republican Party establishment).

Another worry should be that Love performs poorly in some precinct where McAdams is strong. The shifts in these key precincts could determine who wins the election. The scatter plot below shows the relationship between shifts for McAdams and Love. While the model is not predictive whatsoever, it does show a slight trend that as McAdams performs stronger where Love’s percentages decrease.
So, who can win? Anyone, but McAdams does look to be in the driver’s seat. If McAdams pulls out a strong performance in Salt Lake County (with all indications showing that he might), that should be enough for a victory. However, I do stress the word strong. If McAdams doesn’t have a strong performance, then Love could make up the difference elsewhere. But still, looking at these numbers, McAdams has to be given a slight edge in this race.

10 Problems with Utah Democrats.

download(Updated note: I would like to say that I find this to be an issue with Democrats in the Salt Lake County and not from other counties. Democrats in other counties seem to actually want to move the party forward.)

Back in July, I was looking for a political job, particularly in Utah. I used to be the national committeeman for the Young Democrats of Utah and loved Democratic politics in the state because it was vibrant and productive, even in the face of steep challenges. I was so impressed with Democrats in Utah, I wrote an article about the party six years ago and recommended that the Florida Democratic Party could learn from Utah Democrats.

However, as I returned to Utah, a lot has changed, and the party structure is an absolute nightmare. To me, the glue that held the party together for so many years was the amazing Todd Taylor, the person who I respect the most in Utah Democratic politics, both past and present. But it seems like the party has gone downhill, really downhill, since his death. Therefore, I have jotted down some of the issues that I noticed in the Utah Democratic Party.

I don’t write this to make enemies, but instead to show the problems in the party. And honestly, I think it is hard for people to look in the mirror and notice their own problems, which is why it is time for someone from the outside to examine to problem through a different lens.

Problem #1: Personal rivalries are killing Utah Democrats. Continue reading “10 Problems with Utah Democrats.”

What if Wednesday: Will Mitt Romney drive the vote in Utah for 2018?

ct-donald-trump-secretary-of-state-mitt-romney-20161129(Note: This article is an analysis about Salt Lake County. Statewide analysis coming soon).

All of the talk around politics today is about how 2018 is going to be another wave year for Democrats. Reminiscing about 2006, Democrats look poised to possibly take back the US House and Senate after a disastrous presidential election two years earlier. Of course, Donald Trump is diving the discussion, and we have already seen Democrats in Virginia doing what was considered the impossible, which is competing for the leadership of the House of Delegates. So, yes, it looks good for Democrats.

But this is Utah. And Mitt Romney is looking to run for US Senate.

With that being said, could that change the game? In 2012, Mitt Romney received 58.26% of the vote in Salt Lake County. One might think that is record breaking, but George W. Bush received 59.57% in 2004 against John Kerry. In 1996, Bob Dole won 45.51%, George W. Bush in 2000 won 55.84%. In 2008, John McCain won 48.09%, which was the first time that a Democrat, Barack Obama with his 48.17%, won Salt Lake County since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. So will there be a “Romney Coattails Effect” in 2018?  Continue reading “What if Wednesday: Will Mitt Romney drive the vote in Utah for 2018?”

Is voter registration the key for Salt Lake County Democrats?

Over the last few election cycles, there has been a gradual change when it comes to the way Salt Lake County has voted. It has gone from solidly supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 to supporting Hillary Clinton last year. However, the last two elections were probably anomalies, with Romney heading the ticket in 2012, and right-of-center Evan McMullin, a Utah Mormon, leading an independent challenge in 2016. Hopefully, 2020 will bring a return to some sense of normality to presidential elections in Utah.

With that, Democrats still have an uphill battle when it comes to making Salt Lake County solid blue, but there is a path to long-term success.

One way that Democrats can grow their numbers in Salt Lake County is by doing a major voter registration push. In municipalities where Hillary Clinton performed well, the percentage of the voting age population (according to the U.S. Census estimates for 2016) who are actually registered to vote is lower compared to the rest of the county. In Salt Lake City, where Clinton received 66% of the vote, only 60% of the voting age population (VAP) is registered to vote. If the percentage of VAP was registered at 70%, this would add around 15,000 new voters, with about 10,000 of those voters favoring the Democratic candidate. And since Salt Lake City’s turnout rate (85.64%) is actually the third highest among county municipalities (behind Holladay and Draper), there is a strong likelihood of these new voters turning out.



Continue reading “Is voter registration the key for Salt Lake County Democrats?”

Welcome to Elections Utah

Utah-flag-lowHello everyone,

My name is Dave Trotter and welcome to my blog, Elections Utah. As the title suggests, this blog will examine elections within the State of Utah. I will be looking at stories that are impacting elections in the state, but mostly be examining the numbers and geography behind politics in Utah.

This site is not going to be flashy, but instead informative. I am just starting it off now, and it will eventually evolve over time. As of right now, getting stories on the site is the highest priority.

As some of you already know, this blog will look at things from a Democratic Party perspective of Utah politics. So yes, there will be a Democratic bias. However, as someone who identifies as a moderate Democrat, I will probably not be discussing ideology, unless we have some data that can discuss ideology. Also, in the case of partisanship, I will try to remain as unbiased as possible.

This blog is just one part of Sigma Strategies, LLC, which is a campaign consulting company that consults on all aspects of political campaigns. Please visit our website here.

Again, thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy this site. Any criticism is welcomed.


Dave Trotter