Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: In Utah politics, there are plenty of reasons for being thankful

Published: Sunday, Nov. 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Christmas season has arrived, but visions of sugarplums can wait. We're still working on Thanksgiving. Most well-adjusted people sat down with their families last Thursday and gave thanks for the important things in life: good health, family, fine food and the blessings of America. But politicos, an entirely different breed, had their own peculiar items to be grateful for. We have collected some of those expressions of thanks.

Gov. Gary Herbert is grateful that in this anti-incumbent, anti-establishment election season, Utah voters forgot (or were not told) that he has held an elective office for 20 years.

New House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart appreciates the secret ballot process in leadership elections. If votes were made public in an open process, lawmakers may not have been as willing to elect the state's first female speaker.

Sen.-elect Mike Lee is in grateful for Utah's caucus-convention system and the tea party movement. The combination allowed him to come from nowhere and enthuse thousands of volunteers and supporters with little money, media coverage or organization — just through speeches about the Constitution, states' rights and the awful federal government.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman is thankful that activities such as purchasing a home in Washington D.C., and supporters creating a new political action committee, still attract the attention of the news media, keeping his visibility high and his presidential aspirations alive.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell is very grateful (according to Frank) that the Herbert-Bell campaign chose an Italian to manage the re-election effort. Joe Demma was the perfect political operative for Herbert this election. With roots in the southern Mediterranean, he possesses passion, patience (especially to wait out Corroon's attacks), clever thinking and stubborn determination typical of this ethnic heritage.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is grateful that Utah voters have short attention spans and quickly forget. Two years from now, they will remember his name … but will not recall why.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen has erected a shrine expressing gratitude for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He is thankful she was re-elected as speaker, and is appreciative of the wonderful things she will continue to do for the Utah Republican Party, especially in 2012.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland had a hard time finding much to be thankful for, but is clinging with appreciation to the theory that Utah ultraconservatives will overreach in their posturing and scare the heck out of most Utahns — setting the stage for reversal of Democratic fortunes in 2012.

Republican legislators are grateful for the federal government — a big bogeyman they can blame for every problem of mankind — while still taking federal money. Fed-bashing will be the favorite sport of the 2011 legislative session.

Democratic legislators (those who survived the GOP landslide) … are just plain grateful to be alive and kicking.

Congressman Jim Matheson is thankful for the special opportunities in his life: the chance to vote against health care reform, cap and trade and TARP. He's also grateful for Salt Lake County, where he won by 34,000 votes — enough to offset big losses in Utah and Washington counties.

Sen. Orrin Hatch is grateful for the election of 35-year-old political novice Mike Lee to the U.S. Senate, making Hatch's seniority and clout even more important. Overnight, Utah's senior senator became a prized commodity for the Utah political establishment, especially with his senior position on the Senate Finance Committee.

Utah's judges are thankful for the length of Utah's election ballot. So many judges were on the 2010 ballot for retention elections that voters became frustrated and impatient with the long list and just checked the boxes for their reappointment.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is thankful for all the election choices in 2012 — re-election as attorney general, governor, U.S. Senate, 4th congressional seat. A veritable smorgasbord of opportunity for an ambitious politician.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is thankful for former President George W. Bush's visits to Utah — another chance to protest and rally Salt Lake City's arch-liberals.

West Valley Mayor Mike Winder is grateful that at least one plum office still exists where a Republican moderate may have a chance to win the nomination — the Salt Lake County mayorship.

Lobbyists (like Frank) will always kneel in thanks to a higher power who guided the actions of our federal and state constitutional authors for mandating the right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." In lobbyistspeak, that means schmoozemeisters have ironclad, recession-proof, full-employment protection.

Likewise, LaVarr is grateful that "messaging" is actually a viable profession in politics, and that spinmeisters, in general, remain in high demand.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.

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