GOP Delegates Favor Outsiders In Two Recent Contests
Salt Lake Tribune
by Robert Gehrke
May 16, 2011
For the second time in a handful of weeks, a relative outsider has won a special election for a Utah Senate seat — this time Casey Anderson in Senate District 28 — with both new senators saying delegates wanted new, fresh leaders.
Anderson triumphed over Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City — who had the backing of the House speaker — and Marilee Stowell, the widow of the late Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan, who died last month after a battle against cancer.
“The will of the voters was for a new direction and a new generation of leadership,” said Anderson, who at age 25 becomes what is believed to be the youngest senator in state history. “If you speak to the voters individually, that’s what they’re concerned with.”
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, jokes that he’s relieved to no longer be the most junior senator. Osmond was elected to replace former Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, six weeks ago, beating two sitting House members — Reps. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, and Merlyn Newbold, R-South Jordan — and the daughter of his predecessor.
“Frankly, I was the underdog and many viewed that there wasn’t even a chance, because others were so much more popular,” said Osmond. “I really felt that [delegates] viewed it as a fresh, new face, someone who resonated with them, who really had a platform they could believe in and had the business perspective.”
Former Sen. Paul Rogers, R-Provo, who was in his early 30s when he was elected, said the election of Osmond and Anderson shows delegates are open to outsiders.
“The last two elected state senators give a clear voter preference, or a willingness at least, to work with somebody who has not been a part of the legislative process or held elected office, and they’re not afraid to err on the side of youth,” he said.
Utah lawmakers, most of whom face re-election next year, are paying close attention to an active tea party movement and some signs of a strong strain of anti-establishment sentiment in the electorate — such as the public outcry after the Legislature’s attempted change to the open-records law and passage of a raft of immigration reform bills.
Neither Anderson nor Osmond said that their election was necessarily a backlash against the current legislators and that the dynamics of each race was different. Osmond was not endorsed by the tea party groups, while Anderson is very closely tied to the movement.
Anderson was the regional coordinator for the Campaign For Liberty, one of the various conservative organizations that have come together to reshape the Republican Party, and said he focused his campaign on controlling government spending.
“I feel like it’s a major victory for liberty,” said Darcy Van Orden, a conservative activist, adding that every decision Anderson makes will be focused on expanding liberty. She said that part of Anderson’s attraction was that Utahns are looking for a change.
“I definitely think there is something to people feeling like they’re really sick and done with more of the same,” she said. “I think people do get excited by a new person with new ideas.”
Anderson is a social worker, has earned his master’s degree in forensic science from Southern Utah University and has begun working on a doctorate in Constitutional Studies from George Wythe University — a private college with a conservative bent.
Anderson said he got involved in politics in 2008 out of a general dissatisfaction with both political parties and the direction in which the government was headed.
He was elected as the Iron County Republican Party chairman in March and took a leave of absence to run for the Senate seat.
Anderson focused on controlling spending, states’ rights and said he supports anything that would reduce school class sizes, including offering vouchers to send kids to private schools.
He and his wife, Heidi are expecting their first child, a daughter, in August. Anderson is expected to take the oath of office Wednesday.