UtahPolicy put that question to the newly-elected GOP leadership of the Utah House. And didn’t get a definitive answer.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace – always careful with his words – talked around it, saying that such a determination will be made by outsiders -- the media and others -- as the 2013 Legislature moves forward with its work.
House Majority Assistant Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said maybe, but that a lot of issues still had to be worked through.
Dee – perhaps stating the obvious – added that the Utah House “would be conservative” in nature.
So, UtahPolicy went a bit deeper, looking at who replaced whom in the 2013 Legislature.
Since Democrats went down three seats because of redistricting and the election, clearly Republicans will have more power with 61 members than they had with 58.
But at some point that’s just overkill.
House Republicans still have more than two-thirds majorities, and so can stop Democrats from debating any bill or budget item and can, if they wish, override any veto by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert.
No, the real issue is whether right-wing, ultra-conservative legislators made any gains in the 2012 elections, or whether moderate-to-conservative legislators see their numbers grow.
While Dee is right – the jury will be out until we see some votes on conservative litmus tests bills, like abortion, school prayer, or school financing, or school sex education, and/or alcohol regulation – one can tell some political tendencies from the careers of new Republicans in the House.
There are 19 such folks, 20 if you count Rep. Dan McCay, R-Herriman, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Rep. Carl Wimmer.
McCay sat in the 2012 Legislature, but didn’t make a big splash in the bills that he introduced – unlike Wimmer who loved to make a big splash with his bills.
Wimmer is known for his states’ rights legislation and for sponsoring an official state gun designation bill.
Since the two new Republicans who succeed Democrats – Craig Hall in West Valley City and Jerry Anderson in Price – will clearly be more conservative than Reps. Neal Hendrickson and Christine Watkins, respectively – that doesn’t take a lot of brain-power by UPD.
But there are also several new Republicans who won in newly-created districts. And so there can’t be a head-to-head comparison there.
Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley, beat Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley. So that is one chalk mark for the more liberal side of the leger.
So, let’s take a look at some of the new Republicans and make a few guesses (I suppose “expert prediction” may be a more professional term of art.)
Overall, one can see that it appears the 2013-2014 Utah House will be more moderate than the 2011-2012 Legislature.
That’s because four out of the five Patrick Henry Caucus founding members are gone.
All ran for higher office, only to fail.
Gone are Wimmer, and PHC fellow founders Reps. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem; Chris Herrod, R-Provo; and Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork.
And also gone is Patrick Henry devotee Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove.
In fact, a number of Utah County GOP representatives are gone through retirements, resignations and election loses to other Republicans.
Here’s a quick rundown of the new folks by district, with a guess as to where they may stand compared to leaving Republicans:
-- District 2 (a newly-created district). Incoming Rep. David Lifferth of Eagle Mountain. Lifferth is a family researcher; there’s no outgoing GOP legislator to compare him with. Neutral, or toss-up, ranking.
-- District 4. Freshman Rep. David Butterfield was defeated by GOP incomer Ed Redd. Redd is a medical doctor, head of the Bear River Health Department. Redd is one of two medical doctors coming into the Legislature. Doctors are basically scientists, problem-solvers, and care for their fellow man. UtahPolicy puts Redd to the left of Butterfield, a moderating influence.
-- District 6. Rep. Brad Galvez, R-West Haven, was put into the same district as Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry. Galvez lost to Perry, and so Galvez is not directly replaced by incoming GOP Rep. Jake Anderegg. Still, Anderegg is mentored by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, for whom Anderegg does constituent serves (along with another outside job). This is one of the rare instances where UtahPolicy puts the incoming GOP House members as more conservative than whom he replaces.
-- District 27. Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, won the state auditor’s job this election. His replacement is Mike Kennedy, the other medical doctor who will be a freshman. Can’t get much to the right of Dougall, so UPD puts Kennedy as a moderating influence.
-- District 33. Rep. Neal Hendrikson was defeated in a Democratic primary. And that Democrat lost to Republican Craig Hall. Hall has to be placed to the right of Hendrickson (who was a conservative Democrat), thus Hall is more conservative.
-- District 41. This is Wimmer’s old District 52, basically, although there is a newly-created Herriman House seat as well. Rep. Dan McCay, R-Herriman, (who took the old seat when Wimmer resigned to run, unsuccessfully, for U.S. House District 4), would have to turn out very conservative to get to the right of Wimmer. UPD, thus, puts McCay as a moderating force.
-- District 43. Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, won an open Senate seat. Earl Tanner, an attorney, replaces the conservative Harper, a pick-up for moderation in the 2013 Legislature.
-- District 48. GOP freshman Keven Stratton of Orem comes into a new Utah County district – most likely replacing one of the Patrick Henry guys. Stratton is an attorney/businessman. He’d have to be pretty conservative to get to the right of any of PHC folks. UPD gives this as a likely moderating force, but it could be a toss-up.
-- District 50. Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, lost to GOP challenger Rich Cunningham in the Salt Lake County GOP Convention. Most often incumbent Republicans are beaten by candidates to their right, not left, in a convention. Thus, UPD puts Cunningham, who runs an investment/insurance firm, to the right of Newbold, a move to the conservative side.
-- District 52. John Knotwell is the new Republican in this new Herriman seat. There’s no one to compare him to directly. Knotwell is a software sales executive. If you face him with either of the Patrick Henry guys who were combined in Utah County via redistricting, this is likely a moderating change.
-- District 56. This is Sumsion’s old district, which goes to retired construction executive Kay Christofferson. Hard to get to the right of Sumsion, Christofferson could be a moderating move.
-- District 57. This is Frank’s old seat in Pleasant Grove. And it’s an interesting change. Newcomer Brian Greene works in real estate and gun sales (he hold a federal weapons license).
Greene is the director and board member of the Utah Liberty Institute.
Greene could actually be as conservative, or even more so, than Frank – although that could be hard to believe. UPD puts it a toss-up here.
-- District 58. This is Sandstrom’s old district number, but it has been assigned to a newly-created district a bit further south. The new GOP rep is Spencer Cox, the vice president and lawyer for a central Utah telephone network. Cox is also a former county commissioner. UPD places Cox as less conservative than Sandstrom.
-- District 60. Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, was defeated by GOP challenger Dana Layton, an event production executive. UPD gives this as a toss-up, although most lawmakers from Utah County are pretty conservative.
-- District 62. This is a newly-created district in St. George, a very Republican area of the state. Jon Stannard, a graphic/advertising executive, is the new rep – unknown and listed as a toss-up by UPD.
-- District 66. This is Rep. Mike Morley’s seat from Spanish Fork. Morley was as trusted conservative put on the all-powerful House Rules Committee. The new rep is Mike McKell, a local attorney and business leader, perhaps a bit more moderate than Morley – but, again, you know what they say about Utah County Republicans. . . . .
-- District 67. Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi, ran for the state Senate, but lost. He’s replaced in the House by Marc Roberts, an executive with an electronic payments firm. UPD gives this a toss-up.
-- District 68. This one is not even close. Former Utah Rep. Merrill Nelson, an attorney from Grantsville, defeated Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, in this greatly-changed district.
Nelson is more moderate than Wright, who sponsored the sex-ed bill in the 2012 Legislature.
Nelson is a citizen advocate who joined a bipartisan group seeking a change in how the Legislature redistricts its own seats every 10 years.
Wright was much beloved among House arch-conservatives, and it will be interesting to see how Nelson is received by the House GOP caucus.
-- District 69. Democrat Watkins lost to Republican Jerry Anderson. Anderson’s personal vita wasn’t listed on the state candidate web site. But any Republican, even one from Price, would be more conservative than a Democrat, UPD guesses. This seat is a pick up for conservatives.
-- District 72. Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, ran for the state Senate and won. He is replaced by John Westwood, chief financial officer of the State Bank of Southern Utah. Vickers was a local business leader, as well. UPD sees this as a toss-up.
So, UPD sees nine new GOP House members as more moderate than the representatives they are replacing.
And four are more conservative (including two Democrats who lost to those Republicans).
Seven changes are unknowns – the newcomers could be more conservative, they could be less, or they could be about the same.
Thus, is the 2013-2014 House more moderate than the previous one?
A first-blush by UPD says yes.
But only time will tell.
Finally, there is the question of whether Herbert will be more assertive in his dealings with the Legislature now that he’s won his own four-year term as governor.
Historically, GOP governors have tried to work more from the center politically than have the GOP lawmakers.
So Herbert could certainly have a moderating affect on the Legislature.
And there is the question of a few current legislators changing their spots, if only a bit.
For example, Rep. Mel Brown, R-Kamas, no longer has Park City in his district. So he can be more conservative, if he wishes.
Just the opposite case for Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber. While a moderating influence in the GOP House caucus (that isn’t saying much), Powell got Park City put into his district, and so must contend with those relative liberals, as well.
A post script here: Following the House Democrats’ leadership elections held Monday night, there is a first for the Utah House – not only will House Republicans be lead by a woman, Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, won a second speakership term last week -- but Rep. Jen Seelig, D-Salt Lake, was elected House minority leader.
Thus, officially the majority and minority parties in the 75-member House will be lead by women – the first time ever in the Utah House’s history.