When the 60th Utah Legislature convenes in Salt Lake City on January 28, 2013, familiar faces will be missing. Michael Waddoups-R, Taylorsville, a member of the legislature since 1987 and President of the Senate since 2009, will be replaced by Wayne Niederhauser-R, Sandy. Waddoups has kept the lid on most liquor legislation, and we have reached a crisis for business growth due to unavailable licenses for restaurants and full-service bars.
The Patrick Henry Caucus, one of the state’s most vocal groups of conservative republican legislators was blown to pieces before last summer’s primary election. Stephen Sandstrom-R, Orem, Chris Herrod-R, Provo, and Carl Wimmer-R, Herriman all had their eye on national office. Not one of them survived the conventions to go on to the primary, much less November. Ken Sumsion-R, American Fork unsuccessfully challenged Governor Gary Herbert. The only remaining member, Representative Keith Grover-R, Provo handily beat opponent Robert Patterson with more than 78 percent of the vote.
On the other side of the isle, Senator Ben McAdams-D, Salt Lake City was elected Salt Lake County Mayor, replacing outgoing democrat Peter Corroon. McAdams will be succeeded by Jim Dabakis who is also head of the Utah Democratic Party. Dabakis is out-spoken, openly gay, and a critic of past legislatures. He alone should make things interesting.
Thanks to Mitt Romney’s popularity in Utah and heavy redistricting gerrymandering, even more republicans will fill state legislative seats in a body that was already heavily conservative. Of the 29 senate seats, five are held by democrats. The Utah House has 75 seats - just fourteen are held by democrats, 61 seats are held by republicans. In 2012, democrats held 17 seats in the House and seven in the Senate.
Will Utah republicans moderate? Most are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Church is more moderate in its approach to immigration and tolerance of the gay community. Will democrats have any power at all? Perhaps their best hope is to act as watchdogs and let the public know if they see unacceptable legislation. The people have said no before. Maybe they will again.
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Source: Utah Legislature, Utah County Clerk’s Office