Situational awareness – March 14, 2018

Good Wednesday morning from Salt Lake City. Welcome to Utah’s must-read daily political news roundup. 

Our “Political Power” bracket rolls on. LaVar Christensen won’t run for another term in the House. The special election in Pennsylvania is still a nailbiter.

Tick Tock:

  • Tomorrow is the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 6 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 38 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 45 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 104 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 237 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 320 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 966 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day

“Political Power” bracket challenge day #2

We had a huge upset during day #1 of our bracket challenge. Your votes pushed Rep. Dan McCay to a stunning victory over Democrat Ben McAdams. We’ve got 8 more contests on tap today. Get to voting. Results coming later tonight [Utah Policy].

Here are the results from day #1 and our updated bracket [Utah Policy].

Stewart says the Russia investigation was not producing new information

Rep. Chris Stewart tells us the reason the House Intelligence Committee shut down the Russia investigation is the probe hadn’t learned any new information in months. He also says the investigation was preventing the committee from focusing on other important issues [Utah Policy]. Here’s a podcast of our interview with Rep. Stewart [Utah Policy].

No rematch in HD32

Rep. LaVar Christensen, who won his HD32 seat over Democrat Suzanne Harrison in 2016 by just 5 votes has decided to seek the SD11 seat being vacated by Sen. Howard Stephenson [Utah Policy].

Interesting tactic

A Democratic signature gathering group is using an app normally used by gay and bisexual men to find sexual partners to advertise a job seeking paid signature gatherers [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines

  • Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski will meet with Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday to discuss the controversial inland port bill passed by the legislature. The Salt Lake County Council voted on Tuesday to call for Gov. Herbert to veto the bill [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is seeking to replace the retiring Rep. Mike Noel in the legislature [Deseret News]. 
  • The Utah GOP says they will ignore a controversial bylaw change passed by the State Central Committee because it violates the party’s constitution [Deseret News].
  • Embattled Utah County Commissioner Greg Graves left a meeting before a Utah advocacy group could deliver a message calling for his resignation [Deseret News].
  • The Utah County Commision is holding off on approving a contract with the Provo Freedom Festival after the parade excluded an LGBT youth organization last year [Daily Herald].

National headlines

  • The special congressional election in Pennsylvania is too close to call, with Democrat Connor Lamb holding on to a slim lead of fewer than 700 votes over Republican Rick Saccone. There are still absentee ballots to be counted. A winner won’t be known until later Wednesday [Politico].
  • President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson via Twitter on Tuesday morning. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is Trump’s pick as a replacement [New York Times].
  • Some Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are starting to back away from the surprising claim that Russia was not trying to help Donald Trump during the 2016 election [Washington Post].
  • President Trump named Gina Haspel as his nominee to head the CIA, the first woman in that position. She will face some tough questions during her confirmation about her role in the agency’s rendition and interrogation program [New York Times].
  • Schoolkids across the nation plan to walk out on Wednesday to protest gun violence. Some schools are threatening to suspend students who walk out [CNN].
  • The family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich is suing Fox News over a retracted story that he was killed because of his involvement in a conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton [ABC News].
  • Democrats in the House kill a “right-to-try” bill giving terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs. The bill needed a 2/3 vote in order to expedite passage [Politico].
  • World famous physicist Stephen Hawking dies at the age of 76 [Washington Post].
  • YouTube will begin linking to Wikipedia under videos that promote conspiracy theories in order to quell the spread of questionable information [BuzzFeed].
  • A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to punish the parents of children who bully others by fining them $750 [Washington Post].

On this day in history

  • 1794 – Eli Whitney is granted a patent for the cotton gin.
  • 1812 – The government authorized the issue of America’s first war bonds to pay for military equipment for use against the British.
  • 1900 – The Gold Standard Act is ratified, placing U.S. currency on the gold standard.
  • 1903 – The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the U.S. the right to build the Panama Canal, is ratified by the Senate.
  • 1964 – A jury in Dallas finds Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the assumed assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
  • 1973 – Navy pilot John McCain and 107 other American prisoners of war were released by North Vietnam. He spent more than five years in a prison camp after his plane was shot down.