It's unfortunate all the political talk these days is about the race for president, because here's the deal: The one meaningless decision you will make in 2012 is whether you will vote for Romney or Obama. Utah's six electoral votes are going to Romney, so it matters not one whit who you vote for.
On the other hand, the votes you cast for other races are much more meaningful, especially Weber County residents. We have actually elected Democrats the last decade, and most of the other races have been competitive. These local and state races are where your vote really counts. But that begs the question: Are there Democrats worthy of your vote? Let's take a look.
Start with an obvious one: the attorney general race, in which the Democratic candidate is our own Weber County Attorney, Dee Smith. If there is one office that is not really partisan, where the qualifications for the job matter more than political ideology, this one is it. The attorney general is Utah's chief law enforcement officer and lead criminal attorney. Ask any policeman, sheriff's deputy or prosecutor about Dee Smith, and you will find he deserves his reputation as the best criminal attorney in the state. He has spent his entire legal career in criminal law, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. His innovative approaches to gang violence and drug abuse have made Weber County a safer place for our families. No wonder he was selected county attorney of the year by his peers in 2011.
What about his Republican opponent, John Swallow? Given his thin resume in criminal law, Swallow would probably have a hard time getting hired in most county attorney offices. He's a politician, not a criminal attorney. His campaign makes clear his aim as attorney general is not to make Utah communities safer, but to actively pursue a partisan political agenda in support of the Legislature's extremist message bills. No contest here.
I think we all agree Gary Herbert is a nice guy, especially compared to the crop of nasty, mean-spirited Tea Party governors in other states. However, one thing that has helped Utah survive the problems of one-party rule over the years has been strong, independent leadership in the executive branch. Let's face it: Gov. Herbert is no Jon Huntsman. Experience has shown he takes his cues from the leadership in the Legislature, with the exception of those rare times when overwhelming public anger forces him to do otherwise.
If you are interested in a real leader as governor, take a look at Peter Cooke. A retired two-star general, he commanded the largest geographical brigade in the Army Reserves. A winner of the Army's Distinguished Service medal, he has also been a successful businessman and has been a pioneer in public-private partnerships. General Cooke shares our Utah values and will be a strong independent voice in Utah government.
Are you tired of Orrin Hatch? Embarrassed that Utah's senior senator has taken over the title formerly held by Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd as "that really old senile guy who won't leave until they carry him out?" Hatch hasn't done anything constructive in years. All he does is whine about Obama. Consider Scott Howell. A successful senior level business executive and former Utah Senate Minority Leader, Scott is a proven problem solver that is committed to move beyond partisanship and work to get things done.
Rob Bishop's role in Washington has always been to do what he's told by Republican bosses. He's no leader. A positive change would be Donna McAleer, a West Point graduate and successful business consultant whose motto reflects what Utahns want out of Congress: Not left, not right, forward.
A decade ago, respected LDS Church leader and Ogden Valley resident Marlin K. Jensen said: "It's not in our best interest to be known as a one-party church. There are just so many reasons to have a robust multi-party system going locally and nationally for us. I think if there would be just a few good men and women in Utah as Democrats who would run for high profile office that would begin turning this tide."
There are many good Latter-day Saints in 2012 who have accepted the call from Elder Jensen, in addition to other worthy Utahns who share our values. In a future column, I will share some information on some of our other local candidates. In the meantime, this list begs the question: What's your excuse for not voting for Utah Democrats?
Olsen, of Plain City, is state vice-chairman of the LDS Democratic Caucus.