It is no secret that Republicans have dominated Utah politics. And on Monday, the rest of the nation got a taste of Utah Republicanism.

Two prominent Utahns - Gov. Mike Leavitt and Lt. Gov. Olene Walker - were center stage at the Republican National Convention in San Diego as delegates began debate on the party platform. Leavitt, who hosted press briefings, has been named cochairman of the Republican Platform Committee, and Walker was named co-chair-woman of the Individual Rights and Crime Subcommittee, the committee dealing with the volatile issue of abortion.Debate on the Republican Party Platform began in earnest Monday as some 107 delegates began dotting i's and crossing t's on the document that will provide the ideological blueprint of the Republicans' 1996 presidential campaign.

C-SPAN carried the proceedings live, and Walker was at the center of the platform hoopla most of the day. As the chairwoman, she rarely participated in the debate, instead using her position to keep the subcommittee orderly and on schedule.

"It is easier to facilitate than to debate," Walker said. "I was relieved it went as well as it did. I was prepared for a strong fight or a lot of anger, and I was relieved it didn't happen."

Despite the fact it was Walker's first national convention, she was chosen for co-chairmanship of the subcommittee because of her growing prominence among the nation's lieutenant governors and secretaries of state. "I hope I was chosen because I was capable and competent," she said. "But some of it was probably due to the fact I am a woman, a grandmotherly type, who is pro-life but who also recognizes the need for balance."

Much of Walker's day was spent managing debate related to the crime planks, including changing the word "cop" to "police officers," regaling the guilty-until-proved-innocent tactics of the Internal Revenue Service, adding pro death-penalty language and emphasizing that prison inmates will not be coddled.

But the media's attention was focused on the abortion issue, which featured pro-life supporters clearly at odds with pro-choice advocates. Walker said the actual subcommittee debate was anticlimactic because a deal was cut behind the scenes to give both sides some measure of victory.

Monday night, members of the subcommittee overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to strike anti-abortion language (see related story). But language encouraging tolerance was shifted to another section of the platform.

"Hopefully we have avoided a floor fight," Walker said. "With these kinds of things, you think you have it worked out and then it comes unraveled. The deal was important because it gives Republicans the chance to focus on other issues that are more important."

She added that the entire experience has reinforced her belief that politics are the same at all levels and that differences have to be negotiated. "If you have reasonable people, you can find reasonable solutions. If people are polarized, it becomes difficult," she said.

Leavitt, meanwhile, is conducting the daily press briefings where it is his job to explain to reporters the process by which the platform will be written and approved by delegates. "History has shown us this (platform), in fact, will change" before final adoption by all the delegates, he said.

Leavitt also said the platform would be modified to accommodate GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole's tax-cutting plan, also unveiled Monday. The entire platform, Leavitt added, "will be for less taxes . . . and for more hope and opportunity."

He predicted the tax plan would be "embraced enthusiastically by Republicans and independent voters across the country."

Leavitt was chosen for the co-chairmanship of the Platform Committee in part because of his role as past-chairman of the National Republican Governor's Association, and because Republicans want to emphasize that more governmental authority should be returned to the states. Leavitt has been a champion of giving states and local government more authority to make decisions affecting their citizens.

"I thought it went as well as could possibly be expected," he said "It was a political event, and people are here to express their views. And they have divergent views. The objective is to allow that divergence and still maintain a steady course."

The Platform Committee is comprised of two delegates from each of the 50 states and seven additional delegates from U.S. territories. The committee is divided into six subcommittees that should have the party platform ready for debate by the entire committee later Tuesday.

Some 25,000 copies of the platform will then be printed for consideration by all delegates to the Republican convention, which begins next week. The convention can still amend the platform, but party rules make it difficult. "There has to be a substantial minority to make that happen," Leavitt said.