Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Is Utah's junior senator facing a revolt in his home state?
By mounting the impossible crusade to defund Obamacare even if it meant shutting down the government and not paying the nation's bills, Lee threw a political temper tantrum that hurt Republican credibility and election prospects. It was not appreciated by mainstream Utah political, business and community leaders. Lee has plenty of time to mend fences before his 2016 re-election, but Utah leaders are going to want to see more pragmatism and smarter strategy or they will seek alternatives.
The civil war in the national Republican Party is a hot topic in the media. Will this spill over into Utah elections?
Pignanelli: For years, politicos described Republicans as the "Daddy party" and Democrats as the "Mommy party." No more. The national GOP is better labeled as the "crying little girl party." During the government closure escapade, Democrats were united and the GOP was deeply divided. As an American, I am embarrassed to witness the petty bickering among Party of Lincoln. If this continues through 2014, Utahns will be disgusted and open to alternatives when voting in a variety of offices.
Webb: I celebrate the 2010 tea party revolt that resulted in GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was much needed and has thankfully changed the national political agenda, putting a brake on the ultra-liberal Obama agenda and focusing much-needed attention on conservative values, debt and deficits. But while zealots are great at revolution, they're not so good at governing, where pragmatism and compromise are sorely needed. Utah doesn't suffer Washington's gridlock and dysfunction, but the civil war certainly rages here. Utah's "establishment" (those leaders who have made Utah the great state it is) has grown tired of far-right domination of the election process. They want to ensure mainstream candidates have a fair shot at being nominated.
A legislative audit revealed that Utah's highly touted Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative has overstated results and needs management improvements. What are the political ramifications?
Pignanelli: For state officials, this scandal was akin to learning that your wonderful son was not awarded an Eagle Scout, valedictorian and student president election as he claimed. While no funds were absconded, the conduct will compel legislative and executive responses. For years, insiders have been whispering suspicions of USTAR achievements while emphasizing the real spadework for job creation is happening through the Governor's Office of Economic Development under Director Spencer Eccles and his deputy, Chris Conabee.
Webb: A response to the audit by USTAR Chairman Dinesh Patel and Vice-Chairman Spencer P. Eccles acknowledges the problems reported in the audit, particularly in reporting and management processes. They have pledged to implement the audit's recommendations. I supported the creation of USTAR and have been involved off and on over the years. I believe the bottom line is whether USTAR is bolstering Utah's economy long term, and returning the investment the state has made in it. While improvements suggested by the audit can and must be made, I believe USTAR will remain a good investment for Utah taxpayers.
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.