A last-minute effort to retain the current House Republican leadership was defeated by GOP lawmakers who selected Rep. Nolan Karras, R-Roy, as the new speaker of the House in a closed-door caucus.
Karras, currently House majority leader, told reporters after the 11/2-long meeting Wednesday of the Republican members of the House that he was surprised by the push to give Rep. Glen E. Brown, R-Coalville, a second term as speaker."I was hurt a little bit by the maneuvering that went on today," he said, adding that he learned only Wednesday morning that Brown was a contender for the post.
Brown, who said in a separate interview that he never violated his promise to Karras not to actively seek reappointment, acknowledged that he would have liked to serve again.
"I told them I'd be willing to do it. It's something I would have felt good about doing," Brown said of the mostly rural legislators who urged him to accept their nomination.
Both Karras and Brown said the caucus members first cast ballots on a motion to retain them in their present positions. That motion was defeated, even though Brown said he spoke in favor of it to offer an alternative.
With some of the tension dispelled, caucus members went on to elect Karras as speaker and Rep. Craig Moody, R-Sandy, as majority leader. Moody will step down as chairman of the Utah Republican Party before the Legislature meets Jan. 9 so a replacement can be named.
Other appointments made were Rep. David Adams, R-Monticello, as majority whip and Rep. Byron Harward, R-Provo, as majority assistant whip. Adams will replace Rep. Olene Walker, R-Salt Lake, who lost a bid for re-election; and Harward, Rep. Jack DeMann, R-Salt Lake, who did not run.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Frank Pignanelli narrowly defeated fellow Salt Lake Rep. Ted Lewis for the minority whip post. The first ballot ended in a tie. For Lewis, a long-time legislator, it was his second narrow defeat for the job.
Pignanelli, a second-term representative, replaces Rep. Blaze Wharton, D-Salt Lake. Wharton decided to relinquish the job and to support Pignanelli.
Democrats also re-elected Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich of Price and Assistant Minority Whip Brent Goodfellow of West Valley City. Rep. Beverly White, D-Tooele, was elected to the management committee.
Democrats, who are outnumbered in the House of Representatives 47-28, encouraged their members to build coalitions with Republicans and to work to make sure they gain more seats in the 1990 election.
Dmitrich said the party needs to come up with its own tax reform bills to counter one that has been proposed by Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter. Bangerter's six-point plan would freeze property taxes and require a vote of the public to raise them.
"We need to make sure Republicans don't ram legislation down our throats," Pignanelli said.
Both parties are expected to begin making committee assignments quickly. On the Republican side, Brown will likely be named head of the powerful Executive Appropriations Committee, according to Karras.
Brown would replace Rep. Frank Knowlton, R-Layton. Karras said it was Knowlton who "engineered" the effort to prevent him from moving up to the speaker's position.
The Republican-dominated Senate retained all of its current leadership during a gathering last Saturday. Sen. Arnold Christensen, R-Sandy, will remain as president; Sen. Cary G. Peterson, R-Nephi, as majority leader; and Dix Holt McMullin, R-South Jordan, as majority whip.
On the Democratic side of the aisle in the Senate, Sen. Wilford Rex Black Jr., D-Salt Lake, will continue as minority leader and Sen. Eldon A. Money, D-Spanish Fork, as minority whip.