Last week’s temperatures were warm enough that we should boycott writing about politics and instead wax rhapsodic about the nice weather. But rather than give readers a spring break from the latest political monkey business, we’ll review a few items.
Mitt Romney caused a minor political conflagration when he said “all doors are open” in response to a question from Lisa Riley Roche, a respected Deseret News reporter, inquiring whether he would consider a U.S. Senate run in 2018. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has also expressed interest in the race, and incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch is playing coy about his future — retire or run again. What are the possibilities, and ramifications, of a Romney vs. Huntsman contest?
Pignanelli: “Of course, in a match with your main rival, you're going to get extra motivated for it.” — John McEnroe
A World Wrestling Federation cage fight could not equal the emotion, energy and entertainment value of a Huntsman-Romney contest for the U.S. Senate. We all know the contenders’ common background — intelligent, charismatic, financially successful, politically astute former governors from prominent LDS families.
Their public service in Utah cultivated affection among Republican, independent and even Democratic ranks.
Romney is a traditional Republican and Huntsman is the future of the GOP. Thus, this contest will impact the national Republican Party, generating interest across the planet. Although the genteel candidates will behave themselves, activists, Super PACs and special-interest groups will mercilessly punch and kick each other. President Trump will participate.
Utah will not have experienced such excitement since the Olympics. This potential matchup may intrigue Hatch enough that he retires just to ensure ringside seats to all the events.
Webb: No love is lost between these heaviest of political heavyweights. It would be a battle for the ages.
But it’s highly unlikely this contest will ever occur. Hatch is still very much in the mix, sending signals that he will run again. Even if Hatch drops out, I don’t believe Romney would actually go for it. If more politics is in the family’s future, it’s time for the next generation of Romneys to step up.
What’s more, neither Huntsman nor Romney is beloved by Utah’s far right, which considers them both too moderate. A strong GOP contingent feels Huntsman abandoned Utah when he went to work for President Obama, and only returned to the state for political opportunity. Romney’s strong denunciation of President Trump hurt him with the Trump loyalists.
The far right has controlled the GOP nomination process, at leasat until the Count My Vote/SB54 breakthrough.
Some businesses associated with the Outdoor Retailers Association are angry about Utah politicians’ opposition to the Bears Ears National Monument designation and are threatening to move the big trade show elsewhere. Will the show move, and will the Trump administration rescind or reduce in size one or maybe two national monuments?
Pignanelli: Despite the state’s politics, Salt Lake City is one of the most liberal municipalities in the country. This Berkeley East expounds all progressive causes, including nondiscrimination ordinances, strident environmental protections, streets named after civil rights leaders, love of federal protections and a commitment to diversity. Further, Salt Lake City offers great restaurants, bars and entertainment locales cheaper than other potential sites. Mayor Jackie Biskupski is the perfect ambassador to soothe conventioneers’ leftist qualms.
Ultimately, Outdoor Retailers are businesses that clearly understand their bottom line, corporate missions, and any left-wing tendencies in their souls are satisfied in Utah. So they stay.
Bears Ears was not a campaign issue, delaying consideration by the Trump administration until later this year. (But who can predict anything anymore?)
Webb: Patagonia has already said it’s outa here. The firm is doing what Trump haters accuse it of doing — turning an important issue with a lot of nuance into a black-and-white, all-or-nothing, my way or the highway dispute. Patagonia is engaging in a juvenile temper tantrum. It’s not looking for a solution, it just wants to make a statement. Since Utah is so terrible, if Patagonia is consistent, it will also close its outlet store in Utah and pull its products from myriad retail outlets.
In reality, everyone wants to protect Bears Ears, and action by Trump, the congressional delegation and Legislature will protect it. Plenty of opportunity exists for sensible compromise.
Tomorrow is “Hump Day" for the 2017 Legislature. Halfway through the session, what’s happening with the budget, booze, taxes and other fun stuff?
Pignanelli: The rate of increase in revenues is leveling, so many projects will be trimmed. The state liquor stores get some help, but the Zion Curtain survives. No tax increases, but the Legislature will pass some taxation on internet purchases, with the intent of inviting legal challenges.
Webb: It’s a fairly low-key session. I doubt anything substantive will be done to increase education funding beyond growth and minor programs. Thus, it is critically important for the Our Schools Now initiative to go forward. I understand legislators’ reluctance to raise taxes. Citizens will need to do it themselves.