Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lawmakers Moving on to Greener Pastures

Posted By on January 11, 2012, 4:00 PM

Utah lawmakers often tell us they put Utah and Utahns first. But it rings hollow when they tender resignations mid-term to pursue higher offices. ---

In the past two months, four Utah lawmakers resigned to focus on campaigns for higher office: Reps. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman (running for the new 4th Congressional seat) and former House Speaker Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara (running for the 2nd Congressional seat); Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, who plans to challenge Orrin Hatch for his U.S. Senate seat; and finally Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, who stepped down not to run herself but to help Liljenquist in his senatorial bid.

So what's going on? Some no doubt were energized when, at the 2010 state convention, the Republican Party was able to cull incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett from the herd and, in essence, appoint Tea Party-approved Mike Lee to the U.S. Senate. Lee's election hardly required a general vote by the people.

Others are pouncing on the opportunity created by this past October's redistricting exercise, and Utah's new 4th District congressional seat.

To be sure, many City Weekly readers are consoled by the thought of conservative lawmakers, Wimmer especially, stepping down. But by the same token, Wimmer (whose tenure was from 2007-2012), Clark (2001-2011) and Liljenquist (2009-2011) carried big sticks at the Legislature. New appointments will be needed, and who knows what each district will end up with in terms of representation? They may be benign forces struggling to learn the ropes, or loose cannons trying to make a name for themselves. Sorry about that, Herriman, Santa Clara, Bountiful and Pleasant Grove. You just got kicked to the curb.

Losing "Holly on the Hill" blogger, Holly Richardson, after only one session is rough. She was voted in a year ago by Utah County Republican delegates to represent House District 57 after it was learned the candidate originally elected, Craig Frank, lived outside the district.

For most folks, such an appointment would be a stepping stone, giving tremendous advantage when later running for the office. For her to walk away from such good fortune, before she could even run her own campaign, to work on another's campaign, is vexing. With so few women in the Legislature (only 17 percent of the Legislature is made up of women), it's disappointing to lose the frank, outspoken Richardson, to say nothing of the residents of House District 57, who've now been screwed over twice.

We go to great lengths and expense to hold elections, to get out the vote and to browbeat the electorate into caring about what their elected officials are doing. Politicians leap-frogging into higher office is not really surprising behavior, but it exacts a price. If elected officials really believe in putting Utahns first, they should serve out their terms.

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