“I’ve progressed to a point that I’m so upset that Congress can’t get their act together. It’s all about partisanship and ‘gotcha’ politics. It’s become about the next election and not being able to support anything the other party offers. That’s just wrong.”
To Shurtleff, politics is people coming together for the good of the community - something that doesn’t happen anymore.
“When you have people insisting you swear an oath to every plank in a party platform, it’s not right. I disagree with the part of the Republican platform that deals with immigration. Elected officials shouldn’t have to take an oath to that. Our oath is to the Constitution. Political philosophies can guide our decisions, and people should be informed to what they are. But swearing an oath to a party platform - elected officials shouldn’t be doing that.”
Immigration is a big issue for Shurtleff. He is unabashed when he says Republicans need to change on immigration or the party risks becoming irrelevant.
“Immigration reform is an opportunity to work across party lines. Republicans have to do it if they want to continue to be a national party. I don’t want that to happen. This is one area where we, as a party, have really turned off a lot of Americans who could be supportive of a Republican presidential nominee.”
Shurtleff will get the opportunity to change some Republican hearts and minds on immigration as he will serve on the board of the National Immigration Forum. He already sees some progress in that direction.
“I think it’s telling that you have people like Sean Hannity, who used to be steadfastly against immigration reform is now saying there should be a pathway to citizenship. That’s extraordinary. It’s amazing what the results of an election will do.”
He also says Utah can help point the way forward in the future.
“The good news for Republicans in Congress is those politicians in Utah have supported moderate reforms got re-elected. I hope Utah doesn’t take a step backwards, because we are the example to the rest of the country of being forward thinking on this and being fair and pragmatic.”
If that sounds like a man who may not be finished with politics just yet, there is a nugget of truth there. Shurtleff says the only other office he’d ever be interested in is U.S. Senate.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the institution, but I’m upset with the way it’s devolved. The Senate was supposed to be this body of great discussion and debate. Now, the members are doing petty things like holding nominations hostage because they disagree with policy elsewhere. That’s not right.”
He bemoans the gamesmanship that seemingly has taken over the body.
“One that I can think of is the nomination of Rich Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I don’t particularly like the way CPFB was set up, but 44 Republican Senators said, because they don’t like the law, they are going to hold up his nomination. You may disagree, but that’s the law. Until you get enough votes to change the law, you have a duty to go forward as best as you can. This demeans the institution.”
Some on the right-wing of Utah’s Republican party say Shurtleff is a RINO - a “Republican in Name Only.” Could he theoretically win the GOP nomination in Utah? He sees some hope in what happened with a more moderate group of delegates to the State Convention this past year.
“I hope we can get more mainstream people involved in the party. If you get more of them, then I think I could. But, even with those from the right-wing of the party saying I’m not one of them, I seemed to do okay. I only got a challenge from within the party one time in the past 12 years.”
Now that those 12 years are up and Shurtleff is moving on, he says he’s looking forward to melting back into the crowd and regaining his anonymity. But, he has to choke back tears when he thinks about leaving.
“I used to work late here and walk out with the building all lit up and would feel this overwhelming pride to have served. I used to walk by the Utah Constitution here in the building. My great-great grandfather was one of the signatories on that. I hope I made him proud.”