Friday, October 29, 2010

Candidates make final pitches to voters

Challengers confident in bids to unseat incumbents


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Campaign signs, for Democrats and Republicans, line several parts of state Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley.

Though the challengers for state office are pretty sure most voters have made up their minds, they're still campaigning to the bitter end.

"For the most part, people know who they're going to vote for," said Jim Donoval, Republican candidate for District 25 state senator. "[But] I'll still be knocking on doors and working right up until Election Day."

Alex Sutter, the Republican running against incumbent Donna Pence for the District 25B representative seat, said he's still actively campaigning as well.

"Every day that you're talking to people can make a difference," he said.

The senior centers are getting visits from candidates. Both Sutter and Randy Patterson, Carey mayor and candidate for the District 25 Senate seat, said they were ending their campaigns with a slew of center visits.

The people at senior centers tend to respond well to the candidates, whether they plan on voting for them or not, Sutter said.

"I've gotten some of the best responses there, not just because they are voting for me, but because they want to be educated," he said.

Why visit the senior centers? According to Sutter, it all comes down to votes.

"The reality is, they are the biggest voter block," Sutter said. "Every vote counts."

The District 25 representative race has been won very narrowly the last two times it was contested, a fact Sutter said he was aware of. Pence lost to Republican Tim Ridinger by less than 1 percent of the vote in 2002 and won by 1 percent in 2004.

"I know the realities of trying to beat an incumbent, but I'm confident," Sutter said. "If you're not confident, there's no point in doing it."

Patterson said that he, too, is confident, based mostly on the way district residents react when he knocks on their doors.

"People are frustrated with what's going on in government right now and are looking to make some changes," he said. "I'm getting a really good response, especially when they find out I'm not a Republican or a Democrat."

Donoval, too, said he is hoping to tap into the frustration with incumbents that he's sensed in the district.

"If the voters are looking for change, they'll vote for me," he said. "This election is going to be incredibly close."

Donoval maintained that the wild card in the Senate election is still Patterson. As early as March, Donoval contacted Patterson and urged him to drop out of the race, citing concerns that the two candidates would split the conservative vote and hand Democratic candidate and current District 25 state Senator Michelle Stennett the victory.

Patterson said he thought the city of Carey would vote for him, but that even if he doesn't win the election, he feels his campaign has been successful.

"If nothing else, I've got people thinking," he said. "Win, lose or draw, we got people talking about the issues."

All of the challengers said they would not be campaigning on Election Day. Electioneering at polling places is illegal, and the candidates agreed that most voters are burned out on campaigns by Nov. 2.

"Everyone is sick and tired of hearing from us by then," Sutter said.

Donoval added that at that point in the season, the decision rests solely in the hands of the voters.

"If I lose, that's what the people chose, and if I win, that's what the people chose," he said. "You have to respect that."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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