Facebook Twitter

Brown to seek 3rd term as House speaker

SHARE Brown to seek 3rd term as House speaker

House Speaker Mel Brown can breathe a little easier, at least for now.

Brown, R-Midvale, has already announced he will run for re-election as speaker following the November legislative elections. If he wins, he'll set a record - a third two-year term as speaker.Tuesday night, members of the so-called "mainstream" House GOP caucus met at the home of one of the caucus' co-founders, Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, to talk about Republican House leadership races.

And the caucus decided, for now, not to endorse any leadership candidates.

A mainstream caucus meeting during the 1998 Legislature led to discussions of opposing the building of a "dynasty" by any speaker. Historically, House speakers serve just one two-year term in the top post and then either drop back into the 75-member body or retire from the House.

Brown wants to break that mold, saying it is important for the House to have a multi-term speaker to weigh against the power of the state Senate and the governor.

Said one GOP House member in attendance Tuesday night: "The list of candidates (for the four majority leadership posts) changes almost weekly, so it made no sense to pick one or another now."

Brown is one of the most powerful speakers in recent memory. With his homespun humor and conservative ideals, he's been a force in opposing GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt on a number of issues, be it concealed weapon permits or open space preservation.

But his power and stature was seriously challenged during the 1998 Legislature when the mainstream caucus was formed and members took a number of stands that forced the large House Republican caucus toward the middle politically.

More importantly, in one mainstream caucus meeting toward the end of the general session members discussed their philosophical opposition to a three-term speaker.

This was before Brown announced he'd seek another term as speaker. But the mainstreamers' actions no doubt led to Brown sending out a letter soon after the end of the general session saying he would run again for speaker - an unprecedented move so early in the election cycle.

Brown does face challengers in his Midvale district in the general election. But the former LDS bishop has good connections in his district and hasn't had a problem with re-election in the past.

Since the mainstream caucus formed, the speaker has been working hard mending fences and helping the mainstreamers.

This spring, a number of the more moderate House Republicans were challenged within the GOP by candidates touting they were more conservative than the incumbents.

Brown, Leavitt and Senate President Lane Beattie, R-Bountiful - who will also run for re-election for Senate president - attended a special fund-raiser before the primary election for three Davis County mainstreamers - Allen and fellow Reps. Susan Koehn and Richard Siddoway.

They all won in the primary.

Twenty-three representatives or GOP House candidates attended Tuesday night's caucus meeting, one House member who asked his name not be used said.

The caucus now counts 28 members between incumbents and candidates likely to win seats in November.

"We picked up a couple of more (mainstream) members from the candidates - who we think will win. They specifically asked that their names not be made public now," said the representative.

There are now 55 Republicans in the House. Assuming the elections return 55 Republicans, candidates for the leadership posts would need 28 votes to become leaders.

The mainstream caucus "will meet again in October, when it is clear who is going to run for which leadership spot, and we'll take votes then" on the candidates, this Republican said.

"At the very least, we want one of our own (a mainstreamer) in leadership" in the next two years, this person said.

As of now, Brown has no announced opponent. Whether one or more jump into the race, or whether the field is left open to Brown, remains to be seen.

Beattie apparently will be re-elected president without opposition. Several Salt Lake County GOP senators voiced displeasure with Beattie before and during the 1998 session. But none have come forward to challenge him.