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House Democrats make choices on leadership

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 9 2010 9:28 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — House Minority Leader David Litvack went unchallenged Tuesday night in his bid for another term.

The minority party, which will see its numbers drop from 22 to 17 as a result of Election Day losses, did have competition for the other three leadership slots.

Rep. Jennifer Seelig moved up from minority caucus manager to the No. 2 leadership role, minority whip. She beat out another Salt Lake Democrat, Rep. Brian King.

King was selected as minority assistant whip over the current House Democrat in that position, Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.

Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price, was chosen as minority caucus manager, over Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray. Watkins will be the only member of the caucus from outside the Salt Lake area.

Voters rejected the re-election bids of Reps. Neil Hansen, D-Ogden; Jim Gowans, D-Tooele; and Laura Black, Trisha Beck and Jay Seegmiller — all Democrats representing Sandy.

Litvack said despite having even fewer members in the coming 2011 Legislature, Democrats will still stand up for what they believe.

"We're going to bring our ideas to the table very aggressively," he said, acknowledging that having five fewer votes will make it more difficult at times. "We're going to have to be creative and look for even more opportunities to form coalitions with the majority party."

The GOP, which will hold 58 of the 75 seats in the House come January, elected a new House speaker last week, Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo. Lockhart is being seen as more conservative than current House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara.

That won't make a difference, either, Litvack said.

"I have absolutely no concern about my ability to work with our new speaker," Litvack said, noting they have served together over the years on numerous committees. "While Rep. Lockhart, you could say, is a shift to a more conservative speaker, I look at that leadership team and see some moderation."

Seelig said with the changes in the House GOP leadership, House Democrats didn't want to make a switch at the top.

"David is a proven leader, and people have confidence in his demonstrated abilities, and we need that surety," Seelig said.

Last week, Senate Democrats elected a new leader, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake. The minority party lost a seat on Election Day, leaving just seven Democrats in the 29-member Senate.

Current Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, had committed to stepping down at the end of her two-year term and will serve as assistant minority whip.

e-mail: lisa@desnews.com

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