Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Utah political parties struggle over ideology, leadership

Published: Sunday, June 26 2011 1:00 a.m. MDT

Pignanelli: I am impressed with the number of business and community leaders — including Republicans — that express a healthy respect for Dabakis. This offers quiet hope to a number of Democrats concerned about the PR impact of a Dabakis chairmanship. A founder of Equality Utah — a local gay and lesbian rights organization and the strongest political force in Salt Lake City — Dabakis has the organizational skills required for the chairman position. But after his election, he will need to assure independents and moderate Republicans that his party will not be focused on just one issue.

Webb: Dabakis is a smart political operative who understands Utah culture and realities. If he wins, he will be a good party chair. Democrats have elected a number of activists on gay and lesbian issues, particularly in the legislature, who have emerged as thoughtful, pragmatic leaders. They have won the respect and friendship even of conservative Republicans. I expect Dabakis will do the same.

A majority of Americans refuse allegiance to either political party. Independents are a growing faction inside Utah politics. Are the local political parties struggling?

Pignanelli: American politics is in a state of flux with the two major parties attempting to define themselves with conflicting dynamics: globalism, nation building, free trade, protectionism, immigration, privacy, etc. Over time, the parties will determine their direction, which will spur defections but also new recruits. Until then, the struggle over ideology continues.

Webb: If mainstream people abandon political parties, extremists are more than happy to take over. It's messy, but mainstream people must stay in the game, fighting for reasonable positions and practical solutions, not just ideological purity. There is no alternative. The great problems this country and state face won't be solved by extremists. They will be solved by leaders of goodwill who come together to make the necessary tough decisions.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a 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. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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