Utah is blessed in many ways, especially because we enjoy two holidays in July! While that results in more vacation and fun activities, news items are sometimes missed amid all the celebrations. At least three significant recent events of interest in the political world were covered by national and local media. We set aside our hot dogs and lemonade to explain.

Gov. Spencer Cox was sworn in as chair of the National Governors Association. At the conference, Cox announced his initiative “Disagree Better” to help Americans bridge the partisan divide and adopt a more positive approach to political and social discourse. Without such decency, Cox believes solving problems is impossible. Can Cox impact political deliberations?

Pignanelli: “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Family fights are often started not by the content of a statement but through manner of delivery. Volume and inflection can mean the difference between earnest resolution of differences or long-standing grudges. (With Italian Irish ethnic origins, I have deep experience of offending, and being offended, in such circumstances.)

Cox is a conservative. Yet, some GOP activists doubt his allegiance to correct principles because he is not shrill. Others mock his efforts for dignified discussions as a silly endeavor. Regardless of these critiques, Cox’s defense of right-wing beliefs in a reasonable and gracious manner prevents those who disagree with him from claiming an affront.

Public policy decorations laced with cynicism and patronizing insults will accomplish nothing, whereas levelheaded explanations, touched with openness to alternatives, offer opportunities. Only then will the critical issues of the debt, environment, immigration, and others be resolved.

Cox deserves compliments for promoting use of a tool utilized by millions every day in strained family discussions — a friendly tenor.

Webb: I’m all for civility and niceness, with the stipulation that sometimes sharp disagreement and criticism are warranted. A lot of political attack dogs, assassins and purveyors of truly terrible public policy exist out there. A group hug won’t deter them from truly damaging the country.

But even bitter disputes can avoid the sort of name-calling and nastiness displayed by Donald Trump every day. The Cox initiative is a worthwhile effort even though it won’t be embraced by congressional gladiators.

Inside Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s VERY big week
Opinion: Why Gov. Cox wants us to stop hating each other

It is uncommon for a first-term governor to ascend to NGA chair, which rotates between Republican and Democratic governors each year. Many dynamics play into which governors ascend through NGA leadership to become chair, and they work it out among themselves without election disputes. Cox obviously has respect and support among his fellow GOP governors for them to elect him as chair in his first term.

NGA chair initiatives range widely, but usually deal with some public policy issue such as education, energy, cyber security, etc., where there isn’t strong partisan disagreement. The Cox initiative is quite different from the typical focus of an NGA chair.

Utah’s last two NGA chairs were Gary Herbert and Mike Leavitt. Both of them focused on strengthening American states and finding public policy solutions at state and local levels. At this time of unprecedented division and political coarseness, here’s hoping the Cox initiative can have a positive impact. 

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney remains silent about reelection plans, but his potential opponents were busy. House Speaker Brad Wilson scored attention with his campaign haul of $2.2 million (over a million from himself). Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs reported $220,000. What are the implications for the race next year?

Pignanelli: Wilson was hoping to make a splash in the initial report. It was a tidal wave. Listed were natural contributors from the development and political communities. They were low hanging fruit, and he took bushels of them.

Wilson’s report also documents statewide support. Already enjoying a reputation for being a successful businessman and for making tough decisions in the Legislature, he is a contender regardless of Romney’s decision.

Although substantially less, Staggs’ report indicates an ability to raise some money in a short amount of time. He will need a strong play with convention delegates — where his politics are popular — to establish competitiveness against Wilson.

Utahns split on whether Sen. Mitt Romney should run for reelection

Webb: Wilson is obviously a serious candidate, and this will be an exciting race to watch. I expect Romney will seek reelection. It appears he is enjoying Senate life and he’s having an impact. He will have plenty of money for his campaign.

The race will attract national attention, not because Republicans are in danger of losing a seat, but because it will be viewed as a referendum on Trump. Romney has been Trump’s harshest Republican critic in the U.S. Senate.

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The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments challenging legislative boundary changes to Congressional districts. What do politicos conjecture about the decision?

Pignanelli: Expert observers have opined the court seemed sympathetic to differing perspectives. Such care in the public deliberations is wise because no matter the result, political turmoil will ensue.

Webb: I have no idea how the Supremes will rule. I hope they will leave redistricting to elected officials who are closest to the people and reflect their values and wishes.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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