Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Some New Year's advice for those involved in politics

Published: Sunday, Jan. 1 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney arrives at a campaign stop at the Music Man Square in Mason City, Iowa.

Associated Press

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Happy New Year! The enormous 2012 election year is upon us and big events will occur rapid-fire, not just in the presidential election, but also in Utah. This fascinating political year will be defined by a lousy economy, a divided and dysfunctional federal government, and the possibility of the first-ever Mormon major party nominee for the U.S. presidency.

With over 50 years, between us, of participating in and watching state and national politics, we're offering some New Year's Day advice to those involved in Utah public policy:

Political Candidates.

Webb: Congratulations for putting your good names on the line and leaping into elective politics. You're off on a great adventure, so enjoy the ride. Be prepared to lose as well as win. Keep things in perspective. Talk to at least one person each day who doesn't care about and isn't following politics. Avoid negative campaigning. Stick to your principles, but don't be a purist ideologue. Be a problem-solver. Uncompromising ideologues never solve anything and never do the state or nation much good. All the great conservative politicians that I admire, including Ronald Reagan, were willing to find common ground to solve problems.

Pignanelli: "A leader must have the courage to act against an expert's advice." — James Callaghan. LaVarr is a gracious gentleman; I am not, and my advice is more direct.

Utah Democrats: Mitt Romney is the most famous living LDS adherent on the planet, and he is about to suffer a savage thrashing from national Democrats. Harsh attacks in presidential contests are a quadrennial tradition since 1800, but this is a first for a Mormon. Not only will the turnout be high in Utah to support his candidacy, a number of LDS Republicans and Independents will be furious at this treatment. Utah Democrats are advised to develop a strategy in response. This may require disagreeing with Democrats from other parts of the country. Also, this environment will not allow Utah Democrats to utilize negative campaigns.

Utah Republicans: Please stop the carping at each other — such behavior is beneath the dignity of the party in power. While some may not support the retention of incumbents, they deserve respect in the convention/delegate process. Certain activists may have issue with Sen. Orrin Hatch's length of service, but his accomplishments in behalf of the nation and state should not be diminished. All this grousing by GOP insiders about Gov. Gary Herbert is especially weird — they cannot give specifics as to major mistakes or policy blunders contrary to Republican principles. Notwithstanding a $2 million attack against him in 2010, Utah voters approved Herbert's style. In other words, please do not let the ultra-right tea party activists determine how our state leaders are selected and ultimately govern.

Utah Legislature.

Pignanelli: I appeal to your better nature to ignore the anti-immigrant noise. No Utahn will benefit from creating greater hardships for those seeking a better life through grueling work — that American citizens eschew.

Webb: You have done a terrific job managing state finances in very difficult times. You have cut budgets fairly and judiciously. With revenues picking up, you now have the opportunity to invest a little, not just cut. Our state will not be successful, long-term, without excellent education, and we're slipping badly. So please invest in education as much as possible, but require real reform. Business as usual, the same old model, isn't enough. Look to excellent charter schools for reforms that produce great results.

Utah Members of Congress.

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