Being a member of the political media is a high-wire act that often leads to some pretty spectacular falls. Sometimes you’re right, but most other times you’re wrong - especially when trying to figure out what comes next in the often unpredictable world of politics.
Now that we’re halfway through 2014, it’s time to look back on some of the predictions I made at the beginning of the year and see how I’ve fared.
Prediction: The historic ruling by Judge Robert Shelby striking down Utah’s Amendment 3 as unconstitutional will survive an appeal by Utah at the 10th Circuit. The state will appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court will affirm Shelby’s ruling and make same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Reality: I’ve been 100% correct so far. What I didn’t see was Shelby’s ruling being used to invalidate other bans on same-sex marriage around the country. Utah will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but the earliest they’ll rule on it is 2015...If they decide to take the case.
Prediction: The Legislature will overwhelmingly pass a proposed Constitutional Amendment for “religious liberty” that would prevent churches from being forced to recognize marriages that go against their basic teachings.
Reality: Wrong. Legislative leaders wisely decided to call a cease-fire in the culture war while the state appeals Shelby’s ruling striking down Amendment 3.
Prediction: A statewide anti-discrimination bill will go basically nowhere after advancing out of a committee last year.
Reality: 100% right. Despite theatrics from supporters of SB 100, which included the arrest of a number of activists after they tried to block access to the Governor’s office and a hearing room, the statewide non-discrimination bill was DOA. It wasn’t all bad, though. Legislators held a discussion with members of the LGBT community - but it wasn’t enough to get the bill heard.
Prediction: Utah’s Democrats will completely fail to capitalize on the sordid John Swallow mess. It’s a rare opportunity for the minority party to make some political hay, but they are so worried about potential blowback from the Republican majority on the Hill, they’ll be unable (or unwilling) to take full advantage.
Reality: As I expected, the John Swallow affair has been a big ol’ “meh” politically. Republicans don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole, lest they draw attention to the fact that Swallow was a member of the GOP, and Democrats...well I don’t know where they are.
Prediction: Now that Jim Matheson is leaving Congress, that seat will go back to GOP control. Don’t expect Mia Love to waltz into Congress. A number of candidates who normally would have been crushed by Jim Matheson will consider making a run now that it’s a Republican seat again, and a few of them will actually take the plunge. I’m betting Love will be forced into a primary where her considerable financial resources will push her over the top.
Reality: I could not have been more wrong. The only GOP challenger who stepped up to take on Love was Bob Feuhr, who was ousted at convention. In hindsight, the lack of challengers for Love makes some sense. She has a huge financial advantage and the incomparable Dave Hansen running her campaign.
Prediction: Chris Stewart will get a surprisingly strong challenge at the Republican convention. The hijinks that led to Stewart winning the nomination in 2012 will loom heavily over the contest this year. There’s a very good chance Stewart will be forced into a primary or even knocked out before then.
Reality: Stewart cruised at convention, generating only token opposition to his bid for a second term.
Prediction: Luz Robles will run a surprisingly strong campaign in Utah’s 2nd district against Stewart or whoever the GOP nominee turns out to be. Being that this is still Republican dominated Utah, “surprisingly strong” means she will still lose by 20-points. Anything closer than that would be considered a major upset.
Reality: After posting strong initial fundraising numbers, Robles’ campaign has been almost completely off the radar. We will get a better idea of how serious a challenge she will mount once we see the latest batch of fundraising numbers.
Prediction: Republicans will win the election for Attorney General, extending their statewide election winning streak to 28.
Reality: This one seems to be on track. Democrat Charles Stormont had the worst timing ever as his official campaign kickoff came at the exact same time the 10th Circuit Court ruled Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Unless there’s a major misstep by current Attorney General Sean Reyes, it will be another Democratic loss.
Prediction: “Count My Vote” will get enough signatures to get on the ballot. After that happens, legal challenges will send it to the Utah Supreme Court, who will keep the measure before voters. CMV wins by at least 25 points in November, radically changing the way political parties select their candidates.
Reality: I don’t think anyone saw the historic compromise between lawmakers and “Count My Vote” organizers coming. Lawmakers knew they were behind the 8-ball with CMV, and had to do something. Sen. Curt Bramble, proving his political acumen, basically forced both sides to come to the table and hammer out an agreement. Will the compromise hold? That’s anybody’s guess. Caucus defenders hope that lawmakers will do something to dismantle the direct primary before it takes effect, which is something CMV backers are fearful may happen.
Prediction: There will once again be no real talk of education reform other than Sen. Aaron Osmond’s proposal to overhaul the state’s compulsory education laws. Utah’s Democrats will be MIA on proposing change (again), and the whole issue will be kicked down the road until 2015.
Reality: The biggest reform measure was HB96, which expands a public/private partnership to provide more preschool opportunities to at-risk kids. Lawmakers also added $65 million to the budget to fund growth in public schools and another $62.5 million as an increase to Utah’s lowest-in-the-nation per pupil spending. Unfortunately, a good chunk of that extra funding will never get to the classroom because it’s needed to fund increases in health insurance and retirement.
There are still a number of my predictions for this year I’m still waiting to play out. I think Utah’s Democrats are going to get pasted in November’s elections, making minimal gains if any. Maybe they’ll finally win a seat outside of Salt Lake County, but that’s not for certain.
All four of Utah’s Congressional seats will probably fall into the GOP column.
Plus, the denouement of the John Swallow scandal still must play out. Will we see major players hauled off to jail? Who knows?