Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Does the tea party have a real future in Utah politics?

Published: Sunday, May 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Webb: This year's party caucuses changed the dynamics of politics in Utah. The mainstream is firmly back in charge. I do appreciate the tea party and the far right. It's important to have a watchdog group frequently reminding us about the importance of limited government, low taxes and constitutional principles. But I don't want hard-core ideologues on either the left or the right to dominate Utah politics and dictate public policy. It is solid, mainstream Republican and Democratic governors, state legislators, members of Congress, and city and county leaders who have built Utah into what it is today, including our exceptional public infrastructure, facilities, services and institutions. We need small government and low taxes, but government has an important role to play in society and we need leaders who understand that.

A number of conservative stalwarts lost in the recent conventions. Will any of them rise again and become significant players in Utah politics?

Pignanelli: Most of the charter members of the conservative Patrick Henry Caucus will not be returning to the Utah Legislature — a great soapbox for any activist seeking attention. The lawmakers in the 2013 session will fill this void. Thus, one or two former right-wing leaders may someday return to elected office, but history suggests that others will be the face of conservative action.

Webb: Certainly, losing an election need not be the end of a political career. Numerous examples exist, both in Utah and nationally, of politicians rising from defeat to major future victories. Politicians often learn more from losing than from winning, especially the lesson of not fighting the last war. Many candidates expected 2012 to be like 2010, and they campaigned accordingly — and lost.

David Clark, Steve Sandstrom, Pete Ashdown, Carl Wimmer, Chris Herrod, Morgan Philpot, Ken Sumsion, Jason Buck, Ross Romero and others are all young and talented enough to recover. Rejection hurts, but some of them will pick themselves up, dust off the disappointment, patch up the political bruises and make a comeback. Plenty of time exists for an encore.

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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