House Speaker Becky Lockhart deflected questions the other day from KSL Radio host Doug Wright about her possible run for governor, insisting she is focused on the legislative session and not her political future.
And if you believe that, then I’m the secret public relations representative for Sen. Mike Lee.
Lockhart has been running for governor since the 2013 legislative session ended last March.
She hired a political operative named Ryan Sims, who had been a legislative intern to Lockhart’s close political ally Sen. Curt Bramble. Sims as early as last April began contacting lobbyists to set up luncheons with their clients to better get to know the speaker.
She has continued to have fundraisers, the latest occurring just before the 2014 legislative session began, despite the fact she has announced she won’t run for her seat again this year.
And she has gone all around the state co-hosting town hall meetings with fellow Republican representatives. By the time she leaves office at the end of this year, she will have dined with clients of the most influential lobbyists and met face to face with Republicans in nearly every area of the state.
And if that isn’t enough, she delivered a carefully crafted speech on the first day of the session that took direct aim at Herbert’s leadership, all the while being guided through the speech by a top-tier political consultant and speech writer who signaled with hand gestures how he wanted her to deliver the remarks.
Lockhart, while saying she isn’t focused on the gubernatorial race in three years, has shown she is laser-fixed on that race and will conduct herself as speaker accordingly.
She is not the first speaker of the House to eye lovingly the governor’s chair being held by an incumbent from her own party.
But her hammer-on-the-head approach is quite different from past hopefuls coveting the governor’s mansion.
While the Democrats’ main problem is that they rarely get elected to anything, the Republicans’ problem is that there are too many of them and once one of them is elected to high office, a dozen others sit anxiously waiting for him or her to finish up and leave them an opening.
When a Republican incumbent decides to stick around longer than his or her allotted time, a palace coup begins to foment.
That’s how Lockhart became speaker in the first place. After a number of House members felt Speaker Dave Clark misled them into an embarrassing standing ovation for House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, who had just admitted indecent behavior with a teenage girl, Lockhart organized a meeting at Mimi’s Cafe.
Clark wasn’t invited, but most Republican House members were and the discussion centered on anger toward the speaker.
That was in 2010 and that fall, Lockhart ousted Clark from the speaker’s chair.
Now, she has her sights set on Herbert.
In 1999, when then-Gov. Mike Leavitt frustrated many of his Republican colleagues by announcing he would run for a third term in 2000, some couldn’t wait another four years.
While Leavitt was attending a Western Governor’s Association meeting in San Diego, and literally at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean as a guest on the USS Salt Lake City submarine, House Speaker Marty Stephens staged his own palace coup.
During a day of interim committee meetings, Stephens and his supporters sought commitments from lobbyists and legislators to support his challenge of Leavitt in the 2000 GOP convention. He hoped to have delegate support tied up before Leavitt knew what was going on.
But Leavitt was tipped off and made Stephens’ effort public. The pushback against Stephens was enough to get him to back off.
That won’t happen with Lockhart. She’s already gone too far.
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