King says he will still run for minority leader despite incident involving GOP lawmaker

There could be some kind of official reprimand for Utah House Minority Leader Brian King over his admitted “physical contact” with GOP Sen. Daniel Thatcher in a Senate building hallway last month, has been told.

But King says he has talked to outgoing Speaker Greg Hughes, and King believes Hughes accepts his explanation of what happened and his apology for touching Thatcher.

King said he will still stand for minority leader when the newly-elected – and expanded – House Democratic caucus meets to elect new leaders later this month.

It is unclear if King will be challenged for that top post. Legislative sources say Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is likely to challenge King. Rep. Joel Briscoe is also rumored to be in the mix for Minority Leader.

“I have the support of the caucus” in his confrontation with Thatcher, said King.

“(Hughes) could do something, I suppose,” King told But King questions whether Hughes will since Hughes seems to have accepted King’s explanation.

“I’ve had several conversations” with Hughes over the incident, said King.

Hughes declined to speak about the incident, saying as the presiding officer of the 104-member House he has policies and procedures when complaints about a fellow House member’s conduct are made.

King says given the chance again to confront Thatcher over some partisan differences – as he did — he would have said the same things, but not have touched him.

“I would have handled the situation a little differently,” said King, D-Salt Lake.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the incident over the weekend after Thatcher, saying he didn’t get an adequate response in other forums, filed a police report with the Utah Highway Patrol – which provides security at the Capitol complex.

Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill, a Democrat, acknowledged receiving a report by Thatcher, but because he knows both men personally, a “sister” county AG will investigate the incident and decide whether to prosecute King for it.

The newspaper reported that King pushed Thatcher against a hallway wall and thumped a finger in his chest as King made his complaints about how Thatcher had treated him after King refused to endorse Thatcher in his Senate District 12 race against Democratic challenger Clare Collard. Thatcher won re-election last week, as did King.

Being in the minority, King does not hold any House committee chairmanships or vice-chairmanships – so he can’t be removed from those powerful positions.

The speaker does make committee assignments, and so could take King off of some committees, if Hughes so desired.

But Hughes is retiring this year, and leaves office Dec. 31. So any such action by him would be short – and then it would be up to Speaker-elect Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, to decide what, if any, sanction against King should go forward.

Last general session, Hughes took Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, off of a committee assignment and vice-chairmanship as a punishment for a “pattern of misconduct” last session.

Hughes refused to say why, but and other media reported that Thurston had repeatedly said things to female House staffers that were deemed inappropriate. Thurston won re-election last week.

Speaking of some possible sanctions that Hughes could take, King said maybe Hughes could issue some kind of public reprimand.

“My appropriate response” to Thatcher “would have been what I said to him,” said King. “I don’t apologize at all for what I said.” But he knows he shouldn’t have touched Thatcher, and he does regret that.