Bob Bernick's Notebook: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Written by Bob Bernick on . Posted in Today At Utah Policy

In just five weeks the Utah Legislature will meet for its annual 45-day session.

And while a yet-unknown number of the 104 part-time lawmakers will decide not to seek re-election in 2014, we’ve already been told that two respected senators won’t be coming back in 2015.

 

Sens. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and Pat Jones, D-Holladay, have said they are going to retire at the end of 2014.

Since most of the important work of any Legislature happens from late January to early March in the general session, over those 45 days we’ll see the winding down of those careers.

(House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, is also not coming back, but the speaker’s power lasts basically throughout the year. And UtahPolicy will look back at her legacy at a later date.)

From a personal standpoint, I’ll miss both Reid and Jones.

I’ve known both for a long time.

I first met Stuart when he was a Salt Lake City councilman way back in the early 1990s.

I’ve known Pat even longer.

She is the wife of Deseret News long-time pollster Dan Jones. And when one talks about the legacy of Dan Jones & Associates, Pat is the No. 1 associate.

The Jones’ were the newspaper and KSL-TV’s pollsters back when Moses was a boy.

Dan Jones did some polls for the DN way back in the 1970s, but it was in the early 1980s that annual contracts with the local firm started being regularly written.

And as a government reporter, and later as the DN’s political editor, I wrote, literally, hundreds of poll stories using Dan Jones & Associates survey information.

We were a team, Dan and Pat providing the raw data and sometimes commentary, I writing the stories and throwing my two bits in as well.

Pat was always the leveler. Dan would get carried away, waving his arms and going on and on about some small piece of data.

Pat would take the 10,000-foot view, and bring things back to earth.

She was much the same as a lawmaker. First winning a Utah House seat in the 2000 election and later going to the Senate in 2006.

It was indicative of the great love this couple had for each other that Dan backed Pat’s political career, even to the loss of some Republican polling business.

At one point several years ago the state GOP issued a press release saying they were not longer going to use Dan Jones as a polling firm, since Pat was a Democratic legislator.

But you could – and can today – trust all the numbers you get from a Dan Jones poll. Both Dan and Pat were the true professionals.

And in her legislative work, Pat carried that professionalism as well. She took up causes of education, including increased funding for public schools.

She was always polite and didn’t take political cheap shots.

In the face of sometimes hotheaded GOP opponents, Pat took the high road, seeking compromise instead of confrontation.

She held various minority leadership posts, including Senate Minority Leader, the first woman to hold that top post in state history.

She worked with a moderate House Republican in an ongoing effort to increase funding for public schools by reducing the number of child deductions in large families – thus trying to turn around the upside down state policy whereby large families paid less, or nothing, for their children’s education via the state income tax.

While Pat’s 12-year legislative career is longer than Stuart’s, his is no less impressive.

Much of that is due to his personal character – which is unquestioned among local politicians.

Stuart started out as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.

He won his Salt Lake City Council seat from the city’s westside.

Although he and his family could afford to live in a higher-income area, Stuart and his wife Laura decided long ago that they would raise their family in more moderate-income areas.

Ethnic and cultural diversity would be good for their children, Stuart recently told me. And the Reids believed they could make greater social and personal contributions in lower-income neighborhoods.

While on the City Council, Reid was hired by former Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini to be the city’s economic development director.

Stuart ran, and lost, a bid for city mayor several years later to the much more liberal Rocky Anderson.

Stuart ran an honorable campaign that year and didn’t drop his standards to attack Anderson personally.

I gained a new respect for Stuart during that campaign.

He clearly wouldn’t be working in an Anderson administration, so took a job offered by Ogden’s GOP mayor to become that struggling city’s economic development director – a job that he left several years later to start his own economic development consulting firm.

Stuart ran and lost a bid for the Utah Senate running as a conservative Democrat in his Ogden district.

And four years later Stuart made a smart political, and personal, decision.

The then-GOP incumbent was being challenged under the federal Hatch Act, which says anyone administering federal grants couldn’t hold partisan office.

The last day of filing, Stuart filed as a Republican for the seat. And when the incumbent had to drop out of the race, he alone was the GOP alternative.

Some Weber County Republicans weren’t happy. They saw Stuart as an interloper.

But Stuart won most of them over and he’s been a popular GOP senator – liberal (as he says) on some traditional social issues, like helping the poor, while being a fiscal conservative.

It was interesting to watch how Stuart fit in with the Senate GOP caucus.

The caucus has been split in recent years over internal leadership elections. And Stuart was immediately welcomed by potential leaders, as they all wanted and needed his vote for majority leadership posts.

But aside from that, Stuart’s advice and insights were also sought by rank-and-file Republican lawmakers.

There is always a great guessing game among Utah’s politicians as to what exactly are the public issue thoughts of leaders of the LDS Church.

This is especially so in the Legislature, where around 80 percent of the members are faithful believers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Stuart worked in the church’s public affairs office during much of the 1980s, and he has personal connections to many church leaders.

Stuart is careful to say that he does not speak for the church, nor would purport to do so.

But his advice and observations are still sought out by a number of senators and more than a few representatives.

Even though he had a history of being a Democrat, who switched parties, Stuart is a well-respected member of the Senate Republican caucus, several GOP senators have told me over the last few years.

Turnover in the Utah Legislature is inevitable and healthy.

But it’s a loss to see Sens. Pat Jones and Stuart Reid leave.

Both are reasonable and responsible lawmakers.

Both will be missed.



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