clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pignanelli and Webb: Political intrigue aplenty: Governor race, Utah County governance and impeachment

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, heads to his car after completing his fourth interview in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Jason Chaffetz heads to his car after completing his fourth interview in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Sure, you’re tired of our corny weather analogies. But while the heavens broke the Utah drought with prodigious amounts of precipitation this spring, we will never experience a drought of topics to write about — because political intrigue is always happening.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has officially declared his candidacy for governor in 2020. Former Congressman Jason Chaffetz decided that defending Pres. Trump on Fox News job beats being governor. How does this impact the gubernatorial race, and who are the frontrunners?

Pignanelli: "I'm not going to sit for some painting. That's so 1800s.”—Jason Chaffetz

The high winds of last week were the collective exhalations of breath made by potential candidates when learning Chaffetz was out. He would have been formidable contender.

The former BYU kicker is a compelling speaker on media and in person. Further, his shrewd tactical abilities were revealed as chair of the House Oversight Committee. He is an early leader of the movement against the "Deep State."

Chaffetz, a darling of GOP convention delegates, was guaranteed a primary slot. Also, he would have pursued various publicity antics to enhance his chances. So, his departure benefits all candidates in 2020 — they will not be held to a higher standard of activity. Cox can maintain a front-runner status for many more months. Former Speaker Greg Hughes is the likely claimant to many activists leaning towards Chaffetz. The successful business tycoons considering the race now possess greater incentive to enter.

Expected political weather patterns will be milder without Chaffetz igniting storms.

Webb: Cox is getting a nice jump-start on the campaign, announcing his candidacy early, then barnstorming the state in a weeklong campaign tour. With high name ID, the support of current Gov. Gary Herbert, and a likeable personality, Cox is the clear frontrunner.

But one challenge of starting early is you must maintain the momentum or risk being the flavor of the month. Name ID can be purchased with smart advertising. Cox will have strong competition from some very smart and experienced candidates, including Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright, among others.

The really big wild card is the possibility that former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. might enter the race. I have a hard time believing that will happen, but if Huntsman is bored and feels he still has some public service to offer, it’s a possibility. Many twists and turns will occur in this race before November 2020.

Like most Utah counties, Utah County is governed by a three-member commission. Following recommendations of a Good Governance Board, commissioners will likely allow voters to choose whether to change to a mayor/council form of governance, similar to Salt Lake County. Should Utah County make the change?

Pignanelli: Commission structures are holdovers from the Progressive Era a century ago. They are historically cute, but deserve the path of other outdated items like buggy whips. A council form allows greater opportunities for citizens to interact with government officials. Utah County should also consolidate all the other elected officers (i.e. Recorder, Surveyor, Clerk, etc.) into departments to be supervised by the mayor/council.

Salt Lake County government has excelled in demonstrating that switching from Commission to Mayor/Council still allows for waste and inefficiency. Hopefully Utah County can restructure while avoiding the needless bureaucracy their colleagues to the north hold dear.

Webb: Utah County voters should throw the antiquated commission government into Utah lake ASAP to feed the carp.

A commission works fine in a small-population, homogeneous county, but not in a large, fast-growing county that is diversifying and serving a wide variety of constituencies. Utah County needs checks and balances provided by separation of the legislative and executive functions of government.

It needs a county council representing the various communities and constituencies of the county to make the policy. It needs a mayor to carry out the policy and run the county. There will be more accountability. Voters will know where the buck stops.

Many Democrats in Congress are increasing pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Will this happen and what is the impact on Congressman Ben McAdams?

Pignanelli: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands the critical pitfalls impeachment hearings will cause, and resists action until something other than the Mueller report is revealed. McAdams successfully continues to avoid collateral damage, by offering reasoned concerns for such activities.

Webb: Go ahead. Make Trump’s day. Impeach him. Investigate him incessantly. Dig into arcane Russian conspiracies about who met with whom and who knew what when. Spend all your time and energy focused on Trump, Trump, Trump — instead of solving the nation’s problems.

The Mueller probe took two years, $25 million, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 500 witness interviews, and 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence — and came up with nothing to indict Trump.

A bunch of angry, mean-spirited, highly partisan Democrats are going to convince voters otherwise?

Democrats would be nuts to impeach Trump. But they can’t resist. It will only help Trump win re-election and it will hurt McAdams.