State Sen. Craig Taylor, known for his conservative stands and fights over moral issues, quit politics Friday in the face of a serious challenge by fellow Republican attorney Terry R. Spencer.
Taylor, R-Kaysville, was best known in his short political career - he only served one four-year term in the 29-member Senate - as the sponsor of a controversial bill that outlawed gay and lesbian student clubs in public junior and senior high schools.Taylor faxed a statement to the Deseret News early Friday saying he had accomplished all he wished to in his four years in office and so would not run again. Rumors circulated last year that some Republicans were looking to unseat Taylor, but he got strong support from Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, and only Spencer filed against Taylor.
Taylor quits the race a week before the Davis County Republican Convention where he faced Spencer, a newcomer to elective politics.
Spencer, 38, served in the early 1980s as a staff economist to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, then headed by former Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah. He has not run for elective office before, his wife told the Deseret News Friday morning. She added that Taylor and her husband met for several hours Thursday and at that meeting Taylor said he would quit the race and support Spencer.
Spencer has a doctorate in economics and a law degree. He is in private legal practice in Layton, she said.
Spencer now faces Democrat Greg Sanders in the final Senate District 22 election. The district includes most of Centerville, all of Farmington, Fruit Heights, Kays-ville and a southern portion of Layton.
Sanders ran against U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, two years ago. Like Spencer, this is Sanders' first attempt at a legislative seat.
Taylor was a vocal conservative voice in the Senate. An attorney, he hadn't practiced law for several years, working with several small businesses. But he told the Deseret News during the 1998 Legislature that he was selling off his businesses and would likely start a private law practice sometime this year.
Saying it was a privilege to serve in the Senate, Taylor added: "While I was often mischaracterized as a moral crusader, the majority of the bills I sponsored had nothing to do with so-called moral issues. However, I am pleased that I was able to provide leadership on moral-based concerns. Without a moral compass, our state and nation cannot prosper."
He said his 1996 Adoption Assistance legislation was believed by many to be the most "innovative anti-abortion measure in the United States."
"In the first year of the act, 34 young women were persuaded to choose life (adoption over abortion) while saving taxpayers money," Taylor said.
He said he sponsored the gay-clubs bill to ban sexually oriented clubs in public schools and stop school employees from promoting illegal activity.
Taylor often felt persecuted by the media, and he didn't enjoy being interviewed by reporters. "One of the most disturbing aspects of political office is the ignorance of some in the news media," Taylor said. "The average citizen is usually ahead of the media in understanding the importance of protecting the moral climate."