I know the public in general cares about education funding. This comes from personal discussion and many, many polls like this one which show that the public, even Republicans by a 15% margin, prefers increased education funding even more than a tax cut. But does it affect how they vote?
Vouchers were soundly defeated in the general election, largely because of their damaging effects on public education funding. But that has not translated into victories for moderate Republican candidates who oppose vouchers (though I have some hope for Becky Edwards in Leg. District 20), and I am sincerely doubting it will lead to a huge influx of Democrats winning legislative races in November either. Even the Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who is running against Jean Hill, the lawyer who easily defeated him in the highly publicized legal showdown over the voucher referendum petition last summer, is completely destroying her in early polling. He’s even claiming to be a “defender” of education funding. Some rightwing posters have been crowing on message boards how this shows that the voucher debacle is forgiven and forgotten and the leftwing teachers trying to “infiltrate” the Republican party have been beaten.
And as for ethics reform, Pignanelli and Webb unfortunately appear to have it right:
“Pignanelli: Voters are practical and decide what is important to them. No candidate has won or lost because of legal lobbyist gifts, campaign contributions or internal party machinations….
Webb: …Despite all the hand-wringing over ethics, coziness with lobbyists, gifts, playing rough with opponents and so forth, Utah has a pretty clean political industry compared to a lot of states. Does anyone have clear evidence of down-and-dirty graft, corruption and vote-selling?”
Webb’s justification of Utah not being as bad as the other states brings me no comfort and seems to me a pretty weasely justification. A friend and I noted that we can only remember Ferrin (passing charter school laws and then building them himself for lots of money—though it somehow hasn’t stuck to his partner, Rep. Morley) and Tilton (nuclear plant speculation and blatantly lying about his involvement at first) getting defeated in convention or primaries semi-recently, and those cases involved very blatant conflicts of interest beyond the normal lobbyist schmoozing, rules fixing, and arm twisting by senior legislators.
So we don’t care unless the legislator is practically writing the check to his business through legislation? Or we support the incumbents for increasing education funding during the years of enormous surpluses as the legislative leadership contends? (see my 5-31 post) We support silly justifications of defeated legislation passed via omnibus bills holding hostage more popular legislation?
What about the voucher referendum inspired the public to come out so firmly against the legislature? And even though I believe less than half of eligible voters actually voted last November, will the passion over that issue ever be duplicated?
I really am looking for opinions here—is the continued support for incumbents support for their records, firm party loyalty (blind or otherwise), apathy, ignorance…? Does the average Utahn even know what the omnibus bill is? And that’s after the recent lawsuit and spurt of editorials…