Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Will there be tax increases for education in Utah?
Webb: Wright will be missed. He has been a terrific party builder, encouraging broad participation and working with all factions of the party. If the wrong person is elected as party chair, a grave danger exists that the party will go backward, reinforcing the old image that the party is controlled by right-wing insider elitists who really don't want broader participation and who want to control the nominating process because they think they are smarter and more knowledgeable than other citizens.
James Dabakis is both state Democratic chair and a state senator. Was his head big enough to wear both hats in the last legislative session, and is he likely to continue in both roles?
Pignanelli: Legislative observers are giving Dabakis high marks for his first session. He reprises in public how the Republicans warmed to him and of his fondness for their graciousness. This statesmanship is appreciated by mature adults but is antagonizing the lefties — who prefer a grenade thrower for party leader. So he is now dropping the bombs, to the consternation of his legislative colleagues. Dabakis has decided to seek the party chairmanship for another term, but he will soon learn (as I did after my first term) that success in one position jeopardizes achievements in the other.
Webb: After criticizing Gov. Gary Herbert regarding the Snake Valley water issue, Dabakis sent out a message declaring "victory" for Democrats when Herbert declined to sign the Nevada agreement. So, as usual, Dabakis turns an important public policy issue into cheap-shot, partisan talking points. Dabakis wants people to believe he can be a reasonable state senator supporting good public policy, while also bashing Republicans in highly partisan and often unfair tones. He can't have it both ways.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com.