Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: How will some politicos' retirement impact Utah politics, policy?
Webb: It’s an enormous loss for Democrats, both in Utah and nationally. Democrat Doug Owens, son of the popular former Congressman Wayne Owens, could emerge as a solid candidate in the moderate Matheson mold — a better candidate than most people realize. But the Republican nominee, almost certainly Mia Love, will be the strong favorite in the race. Some Republicans still question her substance and worry about her inexperience, but Utah may well end up with an all-Republican delegation for the first time in many years.
Do these retirements have any influence beyond Election Day?
Pignanelli: With Lockhart leaving, some form of Medicaid expansion will be enacted. If election results mirror current polling, 2015 and 2016 will be the second time in a century that a Utah Democrat did not hold federal or statewide office. The last occasion (1985-86) drove a reassessment of strategy that succeeded. If a similar re-evaluation occurs, departed Democrats would impact issues.
Webb: The popular Matheson will be out of Congress, but he will be monitoring future opportunities and will be a major force should he decide to run for governor or the U.S. Senate. He will keep top Republicans glancing over their shoulders.
An even more-Republican Utah means the real political battles will be fought between mainstream Republicans and the far right. However, the success of the broad Count My Vote coalition shows that mainstream leaders are simply not going to allow the right wing to control Utah politics.
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.