From Rose Park to Glendale, primary voters on Salt Lake City's west flank sidestepped the Ralph Becker cascade on Sept. 11. Instead, the area broke convincingly for Dave Buhler - and Jenny Wilson.So let me get this straight, Becker cleaned everyone's clock on September 11, getting nearly 39% in a 6-way race and thousands of more votes than Buhler, and the Trib is focuing on random low turnout precincts where Buhler got a couple dozen more votes than Becker did? There is also a hint of racist subtext here: that Becker purportedly ignored the west side, where more minorities live, to placate his white liberal base. Thankfully Wayne Holland sets the record straight.
Becker, who swept a vast swath of neighborhoods across the rest of Utah's capital, did not carry a single precinct west of Interstate 15.
Even so, the west-end shutout - Buhler and Wilson dominated Fairpark, Rose Park, Poplar Grove and Glendale, leaving Becker in third - dropped some jaws.
"It's surprising," said Archie Archuleta, a Glendale resident and the city's former administrator of minority affairs. "The City Council members on the west side are Republican, and their constituencies came out very heavy."
Indeed, Buhler was endorsed by those council colleagues, Van Turner and Carlton Christensen. But the self-professed "underdog" argues his support runs deeper.
"I'm very encouraged by it," Buhler said, noting he pushed for the Pioneer police precinct and still has ties to fellow South High School alums. "This shows how this is a not a partisan race."
In one case, between 600 North and 1000 North just east of Redwood Road, Buhler bested Becker 111 votes to 38. Buhler is counting on that trend to continue to make up the overall margin.
In the four precincts that comprise the heart of Glendale, for example, Buhler outpolled Becker by roughly 100 votes combined. By comparison, Becker beat Buhler by 100 votes - and sometimes 200 - in each of six Avenues precincts and in two Harvard-Yale precincts.
Buhler topped Becker by more than 100 votes in a single precinct - Buhler's east-bench neighborhood.
"Their general strategy was to take Ralph to areas where he could get to know people that had a history of good turnout," said Wayne Holland, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. "Primary voting being a low-turnout game, it was a very, very good strategy."If you know you are running in a low turn out race and you know certain areas haven't voted in the last two elections for your office you seek, why would you dedicate resources and time there? Oh that's right, you would if you were Jenny Wilson.
Holland notes the Becker camp researched voting hot spots from the 1999 and 2003 mayoral primaries and determined the west sector simply was not worth it.
"It just doesn't produce in a primary," Holland said. "He was spending his time and resources on higher-turnout precincts."
Becker says he initially tried to hit every west-side doorstep. Later, after realizing the dearth of registered voters there, he scaled back.
"It's really unfortunate," Becker said. "There is a really large percentage who don't vote regularly."
That said, Archuleta expects to see a bigger Becker brigade west of the freeway over the next month.
"Becker did not do as well on the west side in terms of his volunteer force," he said. "But without Wilson in the race, that will change."
Becker, who bristles at being labeled the favorite, says he is recruiting still more volunteers to work every part of the city.
"I can tell from walking door to door on the west side, a lot of people didn't know me," he said. "I'm hoping to spend more time getting to know voters over there, but also letting them get to know me."
Make no mistake about it, Ralph is going to barn storm the entire city with volunteers knocking on doors. He is going to raise money from people looking to make a safe bet without much effort. He is going to be organized and disciplined. And he is going to win the race by 15-20 points. Becker 2, Tribune 0. Thanks for playing.