House Democrats are digging in their heels to keep the loss of one of their members from stopping their efforts to stall a tax reduction sought by the Republican majority.
"If any strategy changes, it won't be because of Hugh Rush," House Minority Whip Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, said shortly after Rush made public his decision to join the GOP.The West Valley City lawmaker's announcement at a hastily called press conference during the Thursday afternoon floor session caught Democrats off guard. Even House Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, was told only a few minutes earlier.
As for the effect Rush's defection will have on the Democrat's plans to filibuster whatever tax-cutting bill the Republicans bring out, Dmitrich said party members are now even more united against the GOP.
But he donwplayed the significance of reducing the minority party's numbers from 28 to 27. "Life goes on," Dmitrich said. "There aren't that many partisan issues up here."
Other Democrats were less forgiving. "Get him out of here," a red-faced Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, said to Dmitrich while pointing at Rush's desk onthe Democratic side of the House chamber.
Rush said he might have reconsidered switching parties just before the crucial vote if his joining the majority party would have reduced the Democrats' numbers below the more than one-third needed to block a vote.
The move, he said, was an act of conscience that he considered over the past two months. "I couldn't have lived with myself," he answered when asked why he didn't wait and run for re-election in two years as a Republican.
A retired teacher, Rush, 63, was elected to the Legislature in 1986 from District 51, which includes West Valley City and portions of Taylorsville. The seat was held by Gov. Norm Bangerter, A Republican, from 1976 to 1984.