Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: How will the economy affect the upcoming elections?
Pignanelli: Utahns generally perceive that the state weathered the economic crisis fairly well, which benefits Gov. Gary Herbert — as evidenced in high approval ratings. This emotion also indirectly boosts support for legislators (who deserve, but rarely receive, credit for Utah achievements). Because tax increases and cuts to services were avoided, most Republican incumbents enjoy a strong momentum. Yet, this ignores the fact that state government dodged painful surgery because of billions from federal stimulus. Also, many projects in the state were completed only because of this assistance. If Democrats can properly message this truth, their campaigns could be strengthened.
Webb: Utah Democrats will suffer net losses in this election, especially with Romney at the top of the ticket. The two big Democratically controlled positions, Salt Lake County mayor and Jim Matheson's congressional seat, are under serious assault, considered toss-ups by the pundits. Democrats will likely lose legislative seats. Tough year for the donkey party.
What can Utah's political leaders do to ensure a vibrant economy, and what should they avoid?
Pignanelli: We must not attempt to replicate other communities. Utah leaders have shifted the strategy of re-creating Silicon Valley in Utah to emphasizing our unique strengths and abilities — which is paying dividends.
Webb: While other states struggle, now is the time for Utah to invest to surge ahead of the crowd. We must invest in the basics — education, infrastructure and energy development — while maintaining limited government, balanced budgets and reasonable taxes. If we do it right, we have the opportunity to become the nation's most prosperous, successful state.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org.