Originally published in Utah Business.
While I love the start of a new year, I’m not sure if I’m ready for the dizzying array of political battles that will flood the airwaves and our electronic devices in 2019. We will be hit simultaneously with a capital city mayoral race and the beginning of a two-year battle for the White House and Utah governor’s office. Throw a new US Senator named Mitt Romney into the mix and it could be a lively year. Here are my 2019 political predictions:
THE SALT LAKE CITY MAYOR’S RACE WILL ATTRACT A CROWDED FIELD
Mayor Biskupski has faced several challenging issues such as homeless resource centers and the inland port. She has many supporters, but not enough to dissuade a bevy of challengers. Former Salt Lake City Council chair, Stan Penfold; former State Senator, Jim Dabakis; and businessman, David Ibarra have already announced their candidacies for mayor. Other likely candidates include former legislator Ross Romero and current State Senator Luz Escamilla. In the end, I believe the election will come down to the current mayor and Jim Dabakis in a close race.
THE UTAH GOVERNOR’S RACE WILL ALSO BEGIN IN 2019, WITH A SOLID MIX OF STRONG CANDIDATES
Governor Herbert will finish strong right to the end in 2020, but the attention in 2019 will shift towards a new generation of gubernatorial leadership. It’s no secret that Greg Miller, son of the late Larry H. Miller, will likely enter the fray. He’s got a good name and proven experience running complex organizations.
Utah’s popular lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, will also run a slick, social-media-savvy campaign. His popularity will grow as people get to know his open-minded, level-headed, and compassionate leadership style. If successful, he would be the rare governor who hails from off the Wasatch Front.
Many people place former Speaker of the House, Greg Hughes on the list for governor. I think that’s unlikely. I predict he will be tapped for a senior transportation leadership role in the Trump Administration well before election day.
Other names for governor include, in no particular order: Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes; Salt Lake Chamber president and CEO, Derek Miller; Hinckley Institute of Politics director, Jason Perry; local businessman and community stalwart, Spencer Eccles (son of Spence Eccles); and former Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz.
The dark horse and a personal favorite of mine is former Utah Republican Party chairman and current National Republican Party committeeman, Thomas Wright. Mr. Wright represents conservative ideas and will lead from the center, where real problem solving happens. If he steps into the race, I predict Utahns will like what they see. With a list of candidates like this for the 2020 race, I remain optimistic about the future of Utah’s top political post.
SENATOR ROMNEY WILL TURN HEADS IN UTAH AND WASHINGTON, DC.
Utah’s newest senator has at least six years to make his mark on Utah, the nation, and the world. That sounds dramatic, but I expect big things from Senator Romney, who is smart, well-connected, driven, and not one to shy away from challenges. He’s been given a gift―the opportunity to represent this great state with a voting bloc that will give him room to move. I predict Sen. Romney will speak with authority on international issues, be a rock star in reigning in the federal deficit, and even stand up forcefully to President Trump at just the right times. His resolute presence in Washington will be calming to a divided country.
PRESIDENT TRUMP WILL DRAW EVEN MORE MEDIA FIRE AND ATTENTION AS 2020 CHALLENGERS ENTER THE RACE
Look no farther than the US Senate where Democrats Kamala Harris (CA), Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) will make their case for a new American vision. I’m not sure it will resonate with America’s disillusioned heartland but it will absolutely make for ample political drama.
I predict Pres. Trump will also have several intra-party challengers, particularly from the US Senate. Republican Senators ready to take him on include Ted Cruz (TX), Jeff Flake (AZ), and my personal favorite, Ben Sasse (NE). I expect former Ohio Governor, John Kasich, and Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker to wait on the sidelines and look for an entry to another crowded field.
It’s still early on in the political season, but that won’t stop the incessant chatter from beginning. Through all of the drama, I will be looking for candidates whose values and life experiences come from a place of integrity and high character. That way, I can feel confident about the vast majority of political decisions they make, especially the decisions I never hear about. Now, let the New Year begin!