Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Why are so many people running for office in Utah?

Published: Sunday, Jan. 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Politics today is more free-for-all. Ambitious youngsters don't have to wait their turn. With the ability to organize and communicate using Social Media and the Internet, and needing to initially target only a limited number of passionate activists, campaigns are more doable for candidates with limited resources.

Rep. Jim Hansen, Gov. Norm Bangerter, Rep. Rob Bishop and Lt. Gov. (and later governor) Olene Walker were state legislators (three of them former speakers of the House) who all won higher office and served for several years. Since then, legislators haven't had great success winning higher office in Utah. Is this the year when state legislators break through?

Pignanelli: I believe county government is the true political graveyard. Most of our statewide officeholders have risen from the business or legal community, with an occasional legislator getting a boost. Because so many lawmakers are running for higher office this year, chances are one will win. Legislators are well-connected to the delegates, an asset that cannot be underemphasized.

Webb: With at least eight state legislators (a remarkable number) running in congressional, county mayor and gubernatorial races, it's likely one or two will win. Legislative services do provide a springboard to work from, although wins have been few and far between. A number come to mind who tried and came up short: Frank Pignanelli (Salt Lake City mayor), Marty Stephens (governor), Steve Urquhart (U.S. Senate), Sheryl Allen (lieutenant governor), and Karen Hale (lieutenant governor).

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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