Pignanelli & Webb: The past few days have produced a hot potpourri of new policies, in particular changes in political leadership. Here are the people, issues, and events that spice up Utah politics.
Francois Gibson. “A resignation is a serious act; never executed by an upright man without foresight or with reserve. – Salmon P. Chase
The House majority leader has announced that he will not only step down from the Legislature, but will resign, effective November 8. This produced a great shock that reverberated in insider circles. Gibson was often seen as the likely next speaker, although rumors circulated that Gibson’s often abrupt style could jeopardize such a breakthrough.
Gibson’s resignation shakes House GOP leadership. Popular whip Mike Schultz is likely to replace it. Assistant whip Val peterson announced that he would keep his current position. So the whip race is wide open. Gibson was a very capable and talented lawmaker who did not tolerate much rebellion against leadership positions. His vacancy will have an impact on the culture and leadership style of the House.
Steve Christiansen. This western Jordanian lawmaker made national news by organizing a rally and holding a hearing demanding an audit of the 2020 Utah election. Lawmakers have given his supporters enough time to present their case, but no commitment to the legislation has been made. The reaction from all political circles was strong and clear. Christiansen not only resigned his seat in the Legislature, citing threats against his family, but also his employment with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This action by Christiansen sends a clear message that the Utah political and business establishment is not interested in challenging the 2020 Utah election, especially without any evidence of fraud.
Redistribution commission. Created by a 2018 ballot initiative, this independent entity developed maps for federal and state districts after months of deliberation and public comment. They officially presented the cards to the Legislature last Monday. Within seconds, GOP officials noted that the cards proposed by Congress would provide an advantage to Democrats in one of the four districts.
The reality is that the Republican legislature was never going to allow the Redistribution Commission to dictate district boundaries. This is further amplified by the fact that the GOP only has a few seats left to get a majority in the US House, and they’re not going to give one away for free to a Democrat. The media and some center-left militant groups will complain about the vote in the November 9 extraordinary session that ignores the committee’s recommendations, but it will be forgotten by the end of the year.
Rob bishop. The former congressman was an interesting selection for the Redistribution Commission. His very public resignation from the group in October did not change the commission’s recommendations. But Bishop’s arguments and his resignation provided cover for lawmakers who will likely state that the rural and urban / suburban population proportions in each of the four congressional districts should be as close as possible.
John curtis. This moderately conservative congressman from Utah 4e District participated in the COP26 Climate Summit to discuss solutions to global warming. Curtis organized the Conservative Climate Caucus and admitted that when it comes to climate and the environment, Republicans have a “brand problem.” He says Republicans care about the environment and climate change, and the GOP should be at the table when environmental and economic commitments are made.
This reflects a growing dynamic in Utah. Residents of all political stripes are concerned about air quality and local climate change. Curtis, however, will find it difficult to change the public’s perception of the GOP’s views on environmental issues. But if gas prices continue to rise and the emerging global energy crisis worsens, public opinion on energy and climate could align more with Republican views than climate activists.
Public education program. The election of the governor of Virginia highlighted the power of education as a political issue and the sensitivity of racial and cultural issues in school curricula. She also confirmed the importance that parents have a role to play in the education of their children.
This dust is remarkable because Utah is also engaged in serious discussions about the public education program. We believe that most school boards and teachers in Utah strike the right balance and teach these subjects respectfully and correctly. School leaders also welcome the participation of parents. Still, Utah lawmakers are likely to weigh in on these issues in the next legislative session.
President Joseph Biden. The president’s approval ratings continue to decline amid worsening crises. These include perceptions of its management of the economy, withdrawal from Afghanistan, COVID-19, inflation, border / immigration crisis and its priority legislation.
Most Utahns did not vote for the president and do not support his program. Its continued decline in popularity puts Utah’s Democratic candidates in swing districts in political jeopardy and particularly hurts any chance Democrats will win a congressional race. It’s fair to say that the Utahns appreciate the President’s demeanor and politeness, compared to Donald Trump, but that alone won’t help Democrats.
GOP National Convention. October also saw a real attempt by local agents to clinch the 2024 Presidential Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City. The new convention hotel at Salt Palace will help this cause, but it’s probably a long way.