Sandy lawmakers will rule the 1991 Legislature - Sandy Republican Craig Moody is the new speaker of the Utah House and fellow Sandy legislator Arnold Christensen was re-elected president of the Senate in caucuses held Tuesday night.
Those weren't unexpected results.The shocker comes in the Democratic caucuses, where longtime leaders were removed and new leadership in the House and Senate was chosen.
The so-called "young turks" of the House took complete control on the Democratic side. Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, was elected minority leader, defeating longtime leader Mike Dmitrich from Price; Kelly Atkinson, from West Jordan, was chosen minority whip; and Ogden's Grant Protzman was selected assistant whip. While the three didn't necessarily run as a package, their victory is a clear message that most of the 31 House Democrats wanted a change.
Senate Democrats, who increased their numbers from seven to 10 in last week's elections, picked Sen. Eldon Money from Spanish Fork as their leader and Sen. Paul Fordham from Taylorsville as minority whip. Money defeated Minority Leader Rex Black, D-Salt Lake, who had held the post for 12 years.
Back on the Republican side, Moody is joined by Brigham City's Rob Bishop, House majority leader; Provo's Byron Harward, majority whip; and Lehi's Christine Fox, assistant majority whip.
In the Senate, the Republican leadership doesn't change much. Christensen is joined by Cary Peterson as majority leader - a position he currently holds - and Lane Beattie, majority whip. Peterson is from Nephi, Beattie from Bountiful. Sen. Dix McMullin, R-West Jordan, considered challenging Christensen, who has been president for six years. But the votes weren't there for McMullin, who withdrew from the president's race and attempted to hold his current majority whip job. But Beattie beat him. Peterson defeated Sen. Lyle Hillyard to keep his majority leader job. Both the majority leader and majority whip were picked in 10-to-9 votes, with only one vote making the difference.
Even before Tuesday night's caucus elections, Pignanelli - whose nickname is "pig" - Atkinson and Protzman were being called "The Three Little Pigs" by Democrats opposed to their election and some Republicans.
"I'm loud, outspoken and probably obnoxious," Pignanelli joked in a caucus speech before the vote. After defeating Dmitrich, Pignanelli, who was the minority whip, said he would be more subdued as minority leader. "They elected me leader and I'll lead. As whip it was my job to do just that, whip up support. I think, over time, both (House) caucuses haven't seen leadership in the traditional sense. I plan to do that."
Dmitrich promised to support Pignanelli. But it was a tough race with some hard feelings on both sides. Dmitrich said earlier in the day that Pignanelli and other "young turks" thought they could scare him out of the race. "I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Price for that. I'm going out fighting."
Moody said he anticipates he'll work well with Pignanelli. Pignanelli agreed. But Pignanelli added, "Considering we have 31 Democrats to their 44 Republicans, we have a responsibility to offer some specific programs - how we'd do things differently." The "young turks," many of whom were elected in an upset 1986 election that saw House Democrats gain 13 seats on the Republicans, got their name because they shook up both sides of the aisle in the House. Pignanelli said, "I think many of those young Democrats elected in '86, '88 and even this year - not all, but most - wanted this change in leadership. That's why it happened. We'll have some alternatives to the Republican programs."
Moody said he enters the speakership - a post held by Gov. Norm Bangerter and U.S. Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson before him - with several goals. He wants to build on the Legislature's long-range planning - "to get out of the crisis-management mode of the past" - reform education in ways parents can see and appreciate, bring more self-sufficiency to Social Service programs and "attempt to get at the frustrating increases in health-care costs."
Moody defeated former speaker Glen Brown, R-Coalville, in the speaker's race. Brown, who is the current House appropriations chairman, may serve in some appointed leadership position, Moody said.